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Staying Ahead With Staff Retention.

How to conduct effective stay interviews

Retaining employees is critical. Unemployment rates are very low these days, so companies just need to find more – and more innovative – ways to hold onto the people who keep their operations moving forward. One of the best ways to do it is to identify and address potential ‘leaving triggers’ for team members before they occur. But how?

Stay interviews are one such approach. This innovative way of looking at team member engagement is quickly gaining in popularity as a tool to assess employee engagement and identify any potential issues before they become problems.

In this article, we’re going to look at stay interviews more closely: how they function as a staff-retention strategy and then provide some tips on how to conduct stay interviews effectively.

What is a stay interview?

The premise behind stay interviews is simple: create a safe forum where you can ask employees why they might leave, and then act to address those reasons before they go.

As well as trying to keep valuable employees from leaving, stay interviews are also about gathering valuable feedback from your team members that allows for continuous improvement of employee satisfaction and engagement.

Essentially, they make your business proactive, rather than reactive, on retention. They allow feedback to be sought from employees while they are, crucially, still invested in the outcomes, rather than in the disconnected mindset they may be in for an exit interview.

Four benefits of a stay interview

Stay interviews have been shown to have many significant benefits, so the following list is nowhere near exhaustive. What it does instead is cover the four most prominent upshots of a well-run stay interview policy:

  1. They give employees the opportunity to voice their opinions, concerns and issues: We all know the old saying ‘the squeaky wheel gets the grease’, however, rather than the inclination to focus on those that complain, stay interviews explicitly include everyone. The quiet achievers and the “quiet leavers” too. So, you cannot go in with assumptions about any team member’s level of engagement or happiness.
  2. They provide more detailed information when compared to other strategies: Stay interviews can also complement some of your current retention strategies, such as online surveys, by giving you non-verbal cues (body language, tone, etc.) as well as allowing you to ask follow-up questions. The interviewee can also raise topics you have not anticipated. All of these allow you to identify the causes of dissatisfaction, not merely to have a clearer view of the problems that dissatisfaction is causing. This information also allows business decisions to be made on facts about what employees want and need, rather than assumptions or interpretations.
  3. They allow you to demonstrate true care and concern for employees’ happiness: Stay interviews are a chance for you to prove that you really do value employee feedback and that you’re open to change for the better. An open two-way conversation does wonders for building trust between management and team members.
  4. Participation in stay interviews increases staff retention: Often, lack of opportunity to provide input and feedback is one of the key drivers of employees leaving. As such, stay interviews can go a long way to improving staff retention, engagement and satisfaction. This not only saves money in terms of reduced hiring and training costs but also contributes to a more positive company culture.

How can you conduct effective stay interviews?

Like all team-management processes, it is important to undertake things in the right way to maximise the benefits. In order to conduct an effective stay interview, you should therefore:

  1. Run them regularly: quarterly or bi-annually if possible
  2. Keep them separate from performance reviews: allow employees to speak freely without judgment or concern that their feedback will be used as collateral in negotiations regarding pay rises, redundancies or other rewards
  3. Keep them brief: 6 or 7 questions, above this make sure to leave unstructured time to coax out and develop the utterly crucial open discussion and follow-up stage
  4. Utilise a neutral third party occasionally: having some interviews conducted by someone other than an employee’s immediate manager may allow more candid feedback to be provided
  5. Make them interactive: allow for questions and discussion and ensure stay interviews do not become a tick-and-flick chore that feels intrusive or pointless. Try to summarise/paraphrase feedback received to ensure you have understood
  6. Take action: feedback must be actioned and if not, the reason why must be communicated in a way that prevents employees feeling that the whole process was a waste of time.

What questions should you ask in a stay interview?

Stay interviews need to incorporate various aspects of a team member’s experience, encompassing at least one question each about their:

  • Individual preferences
  • Job and career growth
  • Leadership support
  • Workplace culture and environment.

Here are some questions you could use on a rolling basis or in follow-up conversations:

1. Personal preferences and drivers:

a. What do you enjoy most about work every day?

b. What do you enjoy least about work every day?

c. What situation/s in our business have made, or might make, you consider leaving?

d. What might actually tempt you to leave the firm?

2. Job and career growth:

a. What skills or strengths do you have that you have not been able to express yet?

b. Do you feel that you know what you need to achieve to be successful in this firm?

c. What do you think of the learning and development opportunities available to you?

d. Do you feel your progression within the company is encouraged?

e. Do you feel you can grow your career here? If not, what could be done to address this?

3. Leadership support and advocacy:

a. Is there anything that could be done to make doing your job easier or more effective?

b. How satisfied are you about how this company supports you to be your best?

c. How could you be better supported to achieve your goals?

d. Do you have all the tools and resources you need to do your job effectively? If not, what is missing?

e. Do you feel your ideas and suggestions are valued and considered by your manager and other leaders?

f. If you had a real concern about something, would you feel comfortable in approaching your manager or other leaders to discuss it? If not, how could we help to change this?

4. Workplace culture and environment:

a. Are there any situations that are making you feel uncomfortable, intimidated or left out at work that you currently need support with?

b. Are you able to maintain a positive work-life balance?

c. Are you satisfied with our current work-from-home policy and that it’s administered fairly across the firm? If not, what do you think we should change?

d. What do you like most and least about this firm?

e. Would you recommend our business to friends who may be looking for a job? Why/why not?

f. Do you have suggestions on how we could improve our workplace culture?

5. Finally, it is always good to wrap up with a couple of questions about the process itself, such as:

a. Is there anything you’d like to talk about that we didn’t cover?

b. How have you found this conversation?

Should you adopt stay interviews in your business?

Remember, stay interviews are just one part of a comprehensive talent-management plan. You can improve staff retention and feedback systems today by applying the principles explored in this article, but the key to a successful retention plan is a holistic approach.

You must ensure all the pieces are in place and working together. Sometimes, a dispassionate perspective is necessary. Bringing in an expert to help review or implement a new framework can be invaluable.

The team at Balanced Scoreboard have tried and tested methods for enhancing team engagement, performance and job satisfaction. Our structured framework for recognising, retaining and rewarding team members will help you to transform your good team into a great team and keep the people you want.

For further information, go to and view (or book) a demonstration of the Balanced Scoreboard itself. Balanced Scoreboard is not a gimmick: it is an effective and complete team-management system that works for you year-round.