Employee turnover can be costly for any company. The cost of hiring a new employee can be three or four times the salary for that position. For example, if the position pays $50,000, your company could spend $150,000 to re-fill that role, if not more.

Unfortunately, some turnover is inevitable. Employees will retire, move to a different city or country, leave for a better salary or benefits somewhere else, etc.

So, how can you minimize turnover and maximize retention? Conduct stay interviews to learn what your high-performing employees like about their roles and what they want to change. This is an excellent tool for managers to discover what motivates their employees and build trust. 

What is a stay interview?

A stay interview, or a stay conversation, is a one-on-one meeting between a leader and an employee. It can be used to learn what actions the leader should take so that the employee stays with the company.

In other words, the idea here isn’t to persuade the employee not to leave but to find out their grievances and what you can do to address them.

What are the main goals of stay interviews?

The ultimate goal of stay interviews is to engage the employee and improve their satisfaction. These interviews are meant to be proactive and not reactive.

Stay interviews can also help you learn what motivates and keeps employees engaged, identify areas where you can improve employee experience, eliminate toxic culture within your company, promote a more positive work environment, and build trust and communication between an employee and their leaders through honest dialogue.

What are the benefits of conducting stay interviews?

Conducting stay interviews can lead to several benefits if successful.

  1. Improving workforce retention

According to a Gallup study, employee turnover costs US businesses $1 trillion.

Conducting stay interviews is an excellent way to mitigate turnover and show your employees you genuinely care about and support their opinions.

  1. Boosting employee engagement and retention

Engaged employees are more productive, less absent, and, in turn, make your business more profitable.

At the same time, stay interviews can tell you if your employees are happy long before it’s too late and they leave your organization, thus improving your retention.

  1. Getting a bigger picture

While stay interviews are one-on-one conversations and give you insights into the individual employee’s engagement and satisfaction with the company and their job, they can also paint a bigger picture about your organization as a whole.

This can help you identify trends, enhance communication on horizontal and vertical levels, support strategic planning, and gain insight into the organizational culture and health.

What are the differences between stay interviews and performance reviews?

Stay interviews and performance reviews serve as an employee assessment for the business to understand and manage its employees.

There are several key differences between the two:

Stay InterviewPerformance Review
Purpose:Understanding the employee’s engagement level and satisfaction, identifying reasons for dissatisfaction and potential turnover.Evaluating the employee’s performance, strengths, weaknesses, and areas where they need development
Focus:Discovering what the organization can do to make the employee experience better.Learning where the employee can improve and if they met the goals for the period.
Frequency:Usually conducted every six months to annually, though they can be done impromptu if the need arises.They should be aligned with the company’s performance management cycle and can be done quarterly, semi-annually, or annually.

What is the difference between a stay interview and an exit interview?

At first glance, stay and exit interviews may appear similar. However, the context around them and their purpose are different. 

Stay InterviewExit Interview
Purpose:Stay interviews tell you why an employee may consider leaving.Exit interviews tell you why an employee is leaving.
Focus:Proactive. The focus is understanding what keeps the company’s best performers and senior employees and improving employee engagement.Reactive. They help understand the employee’s reasons for departure.
Frequency:Annually, semi-annually, or ad hoc. When an employee has decided to quit, whether during the notice period or on their final day with the company.

What are the potential challenges of conducting stay interviews?

Not everyone will be equally willing to participate in these interviews. Employee reluctance, lack of trust, or legal issues can all lead to potential challenges for an organization when conducting stay interviews.

  • Lack of trust

An unhappy employee may be reluctant to share negative feedback about their manager due to fear of reprisal or a lack of belief that you will take action.

On the other hand, it’s human nature to defend ourselves if we perceive that we’re attacked, and some managers can take negative feedback as a personal attack. Suffice it to say that this only impedes open and constructive dialogue.

  • Maintaining anonymity

Stay interviews don’t have to be anonymous, but some employees will be able to loosen up  a bit more if you give them the option.

The idea is that if the employee is uneasy answering some questions, let them know, “What you tell me stays between us.”

One way to ensure this is to conduct stay interviews electronically. In that case, you should ensure proper data handling and storage to prevent possible data security breaches.

  • Time and resource constraints

Conducting stay interviews, especially in large organizations, can also be challenging in busy periods, as they require time and resources. 

  • Inconsistency

A consistent approach to conducting stay interviews can lead to consistency and improved quality and effectiveness.

HeartCount’s Custom Survey offers a great solution to reduce or remove these and other challenges. This feature allows you to design your surveys and send them to anyone in your organization for insights and feedback.

What are the potential risks of not conducting stay interviews?

Leaving out stay interviews from your regular practice can result in the following:

1. Decline of employee’s engagement

Leaving out the opportunity to connect with employees, especially the top performers and those who have been in your company for more than five years, can result in a severe decline in their engagement. They’ll feel less seen and validated and eventually lose interest in good performance and influential contributions. 

2. Missing out the real picture of company’s culture

If you’re skipping real, honest conversation, you’re missing out on understanding how your company is performing. How does it feel to work in your company, and is it a positive experience?

3. Ignoring opportunities for improvement and retention 

Understanding what keeps the best of your people can result in actions that will attract more employees with the same values. However, perceiving the blind spots that have the potential to feed dissatisfaction can help you understand what actions to take so you can have a higher percentage of retention rather than turnover.

4. Increased (inexplicable) turnover

Why is turnover high in your company? No idea? Stay interviews can help uncover hidden patterns and explain why employees are not staying with you for long.

What is the outcome of the stay interview?

A stay interview’s best outcome is creating a sense of mutual respect, validation, and trust between direct manager and employee. If actions from the management following the information collected from stay interviews and changes are apparent, it can inevitably lead to improved employee retention and satisfaction on the one hand and the other, reducing turnover and discontent.

A 2024 study by the Work Institute shows that more than 75% of employee turnover can be prevented. Stay interviews can help you learn how you can do this.

Source: Work Institute

What are the critical objectives of stay interviews?

The main objective of stay interviews is to help the company retain its top-performing employees.

However, this objective is the tip of the iceberg, and you should fulfill several other vital objectives.

  1. Increasing employee engagement

Stay interviews foster straightforward and open communication, where employees can voice their concerns, offer suggestions, and convey ideas.

Equally important is that they have an environment where they are heard and valued.

Stay interviews provide an excellent platform for both and help enhance the employee experience. That said, there are plenty of ways to manage employee experience you could copy from some of the largest world organizations.

  1. Boosting employee satisfaction

Employee satisfaction and engagement are often closely intertwined. A Gallup survey on annual employee engagement in the US, world, and best-practice organizations found that the US employees in 2023 felt less satisfied with their organization than four years ago.

Source: https://www.gallup.com/394373/indicator-employee-engagement.aspx 

Stay interviews are a valuable tool to gain insight into employee satisfaction and job happiness. This connects closely with the previous objective (employee engagement) in that these interviews are a platform for employees to address their concerns.

Of course, the organization must address those concerns; otherwise, stay interviews can’t positively impact employee satisfaction.

  1. Improving the company culture

Stay interviews are also crucial in improving the company culture by helping build trust and strong relationships between employees and leaders.

Stay interviews help identify negative aspects of the company culture that otherwise wouldn’t be addressed and reinforce positive ones.

  1. Discovering growth opportunities

One bulletproof way to lose high-performing individuals is not to provide them with adequate growth and development opportunities.

Helping employees develop their careers is now one of the top four priorities for learning and development , according to LinkedIn’s 2024 Workplace Learning Report, jumping from 9th place in the previous report.

The report also suggests providing learning opportunities is the No.1 employee retention strategy.

LinkedIn’s 2024 Workplace Learning Report results

Source: https://learning.linkedin.com/content/dam/me/business/en-us/amp/learning-solutions/images/wlr-2024/LinkedIn-Workplace-Learning-Report-2024.pdf 

Stay interviews are vital for identifying employee goals, aspirations, learning and development needs, and desires. From there, companies can create career growth plans and provide opportunities for employees to reach their professional objectives. 

How can stay interviews be used to identify and address employee concerns?

Employees can often be reluctant to express their concerns in a regular team meeting.

However, employees can be more willing to talk one-on-one, behind closed doors, or anonymously, like in a stay interview.

This is the first step in identifying their concerns. For instance, if several employees complain about their manager’s leadership style, that is an excellent signal to address their concerns and change the manager.

How can stay interviews impact organizational structure?

On the whole, stay interviews improve organizational structure. As a platform for employees to express concerns, give suggestions, and voice aspirations, they can offer invaluable insight to managers. 

In addition, these interviews also help organizations develop more robust and effective employee retention strategies by understanding their employee’s pain points.

How can stay interviews contribute to employee engagement?

Stay interviews contribute to employee engagement as they focus on listening to employees and not measuring their performance (that’s what performance reviews do).

This way, stay interviews provide more honest insight and feedback through an open and honest conversation.

Guidelines for stay interviews

Stay interviews will differ from organization to organization. Still, there are some guidelines and best practices you can follow to maximize their worth.

How often should stay interviews be conducted?

Considering that new hires are the most vulnerable to turnover, consider conducting stay interviews a few times during their first year with the company.

As we mentioned, you should schedule the first of these conversations within the first month after hiring a new person to address any problems within your onboarding process. From there, you can take it to quarterly period. 

After the first year, you can ease up on stay interviews and conduct them every six months or once a year.

What are the recommended strategies for preparing for stay interviews?

Stay interviews should be kept from improvising. Instead, here are some recommended strategies for preparing them.

  1. Review the employee’s performance and history.

A stay interview isn’t an evaluation of the employee’s performance. However, you should look at their record and history as this will help you better tailor the interview to their experiences and needs.

  1. Identify key topics

Stay interviews should have a clear form. Identifying key topics that you are going to talk about help make sure it doesn’t go off-course.

  1. Prepare questions

You should cover three areas in a stay interview:

  • Factors that make an employee want to stay
  • Actions that might increase loyalty and commitment
  • Triggers that may cause an employee to leave

There’s no set number of questions you should ask here, but three is a minimum if you aim to address all three areas.

These questions should also be open-ended to encourage detailed responses from employees.

  1. Find a quiet and comfortable place.

Try not to conduct stay interviews in front of others or on your “turf” (like in your office). This can make the employee nervous and less willing to give honest answers.

Instead, find a quiet spot where you can be on equal footing. For instance, you can use the lounge area in your building, a cafe, or a virtual meeting if the employee is working remotely.

What are the best practices for conducting stay interviews?

Source: https://hr.uiowa.edu/sites/hr.uiowa.edu/files/2020-02/stay-interviews-why-how_0.pdf 

Here are some best practices you can follow when conducting stay interviews:

  1. Give employees time to prepare

Surprise internal interviews lead to one question in the employee’s head.

Am I getting fired?

The last thing you want is to jumpscare employees with a sudden stay interview. They should have plenty of time to prepare, so you should send a company-wide notice explaining what these will look like and why they are happening.

  1. Make it informal

Stay interviews should also be informal rather than formal. Make it clear to the employee you are interviewing that this is not an evaluation of their work but an open conversation where they voice their concerns and suggest ideas or even critique their boss (you won’t tell).

  1. Don’t make it one-and-done.

An excellent time to conduct the first stay interview is soon after filling a position with a new hire. This way, you can fine-tune the onboarding process and kick off the employee experience journey on a good note.

That said, you should also have regular stay interviews with people who are a part of the organization. Again, this will help you learn about their concerns, hear their ideas, and understand their professional plans.

  1. Give them the microphone.

You should listen much more than talk during a stay interview. Let the employee speak, and you can chime in to ask questions or probe for more information.

The ratio between listening and talking should be around 80-20% in favor of listening.

  1. Take notes

Don’t just nod when the employee speaks during a stay interview.

Take detailed notes. These will help you get to the solution earlier.

  1. Set the picture at the start.

Start the stay interview by clearly defining why this conversation is happening and that you want it to be a catalyst for positive change.

  1. Make them consistent

It’s best to create and follow a template for stay interviews to ensure consistency among different departments.

This way, you can more easily measure the answers and identify pain points and opportunities within the organization that your workforce is aware of but you’re not.

  1. Take action

Finally, be sure to take action.

The UKG Workforce Institute “The Heard and the Heard-Nots” study shows that 40% of employees don’t feel feedback leads to actionable change.

Source: https://attachments.convertkitcdnl.com/783794/b8c06731-638d-478c-a5c5-7ae859d324fe/The-Heard-and-the-Heard-Nots.pdf 

Ignoring your employees and what they say during a stay interview will only lead to their dissatisfaction and eventually quitting your company.

Question for Stay Interviews

An HR thought leader, Dr. John Sullivan, proposes 20 questions you can ask during a stay interview. He divided these questions into four categories:

  • Introductory questions
  • Identifying factors that make the employee want to stay
  • Identifying actions that might increase loyalty and commitment
  • Identifying “triggers” that may cause employees to leave.

Of course, you don’t have to include all 20 questions. Too many questions will only make the interview look like an interrogation.

Here are ten questions you can ask during a stay interview:

Question 1: What factors cause you to enjoy your current job or role? Be specific. This can include your salary, benefits, and the people you work with. Anything that contributes to you deciding to stay with our company.

Question 2: Do you feel valued by your colleagues, teammates, and management? Are your opinions and ideas listened to?

Question 3: Do you feel you’re being fully utilized in your role? Can you name anything our organization can do to utilize your strengths and talents better?

Question 4: What would you do differently to manage yourself that your current manager is not doing?

Question 5: What are your current job’s most challenging but exciting factors? Please list several.

Question 6: Can you think of recent praise or recognition you received and how it has affected your commitment and job satisfaction?

Question 7: Are you happy with the way your career is progressing? Where do you see yourself in the organization next year or two years?

Question 8: Do you have any positive experiences learning, developing, and growing in our company? What can we do to increase these?

Question 9: What made you frustrated or annoyed (at least a little) about your job in the last 12 months?

Question 10: What triggers would cause you to leave your current job?

Summing up

With stay interviews, you can gain valuable feedback and show employees that their voice is heard and you intend to act on it. This way, they feel engaged and are much less likely to quit or be dissatisfied.

You don’t need to conduct your stay interviews in person. With Heart Count’s custom survey feature, you can easily add your questions, specify question types, decide on anonymity, set requirements, select employees, and schedule the survey to be sent at your preferred time.

How to create a custom survey for the stay interview

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