The benefits of retaining valued employees are huge, and smart organizations use every means at their disposal to keep employees happy and productive. Often, one of those means is employee surveys, but there’s another valuable tool that many organizations may not know about: the stay interview.

Unlike exit interviews, where employees are asked why they’re leaving and how the organization can improve, stay interviews are designed to uncover potential issues before an employee leaves. The goal is to spot and solve potential issues early, improve morale, and boost retention.

With job openings plentiful, more employees than ever are voluntarily leaving jobs; Fortune magazine reports that over four million per month have been handing in their notices. The reasons they’re leaving vary, but in many cases, organizations are losing people they want to keep.

Here’s how employee surveys and stay interviews can help retain top employees.

Similar, But Different

Employee surveys, when done well, are a good way to get a sense of morale and satisfaction across an entire organization. These tools can act as an organizational intervention and wake-up call to highlight and tackle issues that affect the entire organization or some portion of it. If several employees have the same satisfactions or dissatisfactions, an employee survey will make that very clear.

A stay interview is much more personal: if an employee survey is macro, a stay interview is micro. Employee surveys are organizational interventions; stay interviews are more of a leadership intervention.

Employee surveys are generally anonymous, so that employees feel they can be honest and open and share what they’re really feeling. A stay interview isn’t anonymous; rather, it is private. Generally, only the employee and their supervisor know what’s been discussed.

What Happens During a Stay Interview

Unlike regular employee-manager meetings, such as weekly one-on-ones, stay interviews drill down into five key areas:

  • General job satisfaction. What might make the job more satisfying? How does this job sync up with their expectations? Is there anything that would make the job more satisfying or interesting?
  • Career goals. What are their career goals? Do they believe their goals are achievable in this organization? What development opportunities would help them? What skills or talents do they have that have not been tapped into?
  • Leadership support. Are they getting fair and timely feedback? What more can the manager do to support them? Do they feel their contributions are valued?
  • Alignment with organizational culture and mission. What are their thoughts about the company culture? Are they proud of the company and its mission and values? What do they like most and least about the company? Do they have thoughts on improvement opportunities for the organization as a whole?
  • Motivators. What motivates them? How do they like to be recognized? Do they feel respected and heard?
  • Intent to stay. Have they ever thought about other opportunities? What might tempt them to leave? What keeps them working here?

Every manager-employee relationship is different, so it is likely that no two conversations will follow the same format. The goal is to reach a deeper understanding of each other, and the conversation should flow organically. These candid conversations help managers keep their pulse on what’s going on with each employee and how they can better support them

Unlike employee surveys, which are often scheduled (such as quarterly or annually), stay interviews should be more frequent and less formal. The topic areas are designed as a guide rather than a checklist. They open the door to a meaningful conversation that provides real-time insight into the employee’s current perspective.   

It’s critically important that managers remain open and honest throughout the process. If an employee expresses certain career goals or wants changes that aren’t possible within the organization, the manager should be clear about what is and isn’t possible. Empty reassurances will derail the process instantly.

More Benefits of Stay Interviews

Stay interviews have several benefits for managers and organizations that go well beyond retention, including:

  • Provides an opportunity to identify and mitigate retention risk. This proactive best practice can prevent an organization or department from being blind-sided by a resignation.
  • Deepens relationships and builds trust and rapport between employee and supervisor. The saying is that, often people don’t leave companies; they leave managers. The supervisory relationship is a critical factor in employee satisfaction and retention.
  • Develops leadership skills. Stay interviews may uncover areas for improvement.  Managers who engage in authentic discussions will learn how to adapt their leadership style to the needs of the employee, which will likely improve team morale and performance.

The Lindenberger Group can train managers to conduct effective stay interviews and help managers use the results of those interviews to become better managers. For more information or to discuss your HR needs, please contact us at 609-730-1049 or send us an email.