Stay interviews are a helpful HR strategy designed to increase employee retention. The interview assesses an employee’s happiness with the company, satisfaction with their role, and likelihood of being a flight risk.

So let’s talk about how to incorporate stay interviews into your performance management and employee engagement cycles, questions to ask, and best practices to maximize insights.

Benefits of Stay Interviews in the Performance Management and Engagement Cycle

Stay interviews are highly effective in showing your employees that you genuinely care about their happiness. They improve communication, encourage engagement, and enlighten you about what makes your employees tick.

Better yet, stay interviews also illuminate areas you need to improve to help you boost retention throughout the organization. Let’s look at some of the key benefits of stay interviews.

Retain your key talent

Losing employees during The Great Resignation is a concern, as is the highly competitive recruiting landscape. Incorporating stay interviews into your performance management cycle can help to mitigate attrition, reducing the number of key talent you lose and vacancies you’ll need to fill.

Promote engagement and teamwork

Stay interviews focus on sharing ideas. Management and employees want the same thing—for people to work together harmoniously and feel they have a future with the company. Stay interviews empower employees to have an active voice in setting processes for the company and engages them in better communication.

Inform enrichment opportunities

Given a chance to share openly, your employees will let you know what they’re interested in or feel they lack in training and education. In this sense, the stay interview may help you develop programs tailored to their interests or aptitudes.

Check in on your company culture

Stay interviews provide insight into the health and strength of your internal culture and how people are working together.

Identify problems early

Stay interviews focus on the positive, but issues may well arise that indicate areas of improvement. When stay interviews are conducted regularly, it helps HR identify potential problems early, allowing you to make policy changes before situations get out of hand.

Reduce the HR workload

Attracting, hiring, onboarding, and training are costly endeavors from just about every standpoint. The time and expense of doing so could be better spent on other tasks. Stay interviews help reduce the burden.

Reduce costs

Keeping employees is more economical than the alternative. Replacing a mid-level employee can cost upward of 150% of their annual salary, and productivity will suffer until the new hire is in place and up to speed.

How to Conduct Stay Interviews

Many companies wait to do their stay interviews when they have an inkling that an employee is thinking of leaving. However, there is no reason to wait until you sense unrest. There are many benefits to conducting regular stay interviews and incorporating them into your performance management and employee engagement cycle.

Here are a few best practices for conducting stay interviews.

1.     Identify your top performers but don’t focus solely on them

Most organizations know who their key players are. By the same token, you don’t want to make other employees feel that they are less important. Stay interviews may reveal rising stars you hadn’t considered, so ensure you’re giving everyone the same opportunity to connect. Some organizations incorporate 3-4 ‘stay interview’ questions into their performance reviews to ensure all staff have a chance to share.

2.     Make it personal

A stay interview needs to focus on the employee holistically, not just on their work. You want to know what drives them, what they’re passionate about, what they do outside of work, how they unwind, and what they look up to in terms of leadership. Even when taken from their personal experience, these aspects will tell you a lot about what they respond to in the working environment as well.

3.     Meet with the employee one-on-one

A stay interview is much more effective when conducted one-on-one. It tends to increase anxiety when the employee meets with several people. One-on-one stay interviews are more personal and encourage the employee to relax and share openly. If trained, manager could incorporate stay interview questions during quarterly or annual review meetings to ensure the conversation is balanced, and employees have an outlet to express their needs.

4.     Consider conducting the interview outside the work environment

To further reduce the nerve-factor during the interview, consider taking it outside. Lunch, coffee, or simply taking a walk outside are mood-changing, refreshing, and may help the employee feel more relaxed about sharing details.

5.     Listen and understand

Listening is a vital aspect of a stay interview. You’re initiating a discussion with your employee, but you’re really looking for feedback, impressions, genuine emotions. To make it work, you need to listen—only then can you provide helpful feedback.

6.     Solicit ideas and suggestions

Many employees will have ideas and insights on how the company can improve. Still, some will be hesitant to share that information directly for fear of retribution from their team leaders, colleagues, or you. Consider offering a way for them to submit anonymous feedback and let them know how to do it. Performance management software, like emPerform, allows you to create anonymous surveys that open the door for deeper insights beyond what’s said during the interview.

7.     Be consistent

When stay interviews are conducted regularly as part of the performance management process, employees will know they have a forum in which they can be heard.

8.     Follow up

Transparency and consistency are critical, so be sure to follow up on any insights gained. Look for trends in the responses collected of themes that would justify change. Your people need to know that you’re not just “going through the motions” and that they are heard. When action is taken, don’t wait for them to notice. Let them know that their input means something and contributes to the overall good of the culture and organization.

Best Practices for Stay Interviews

We’ve outlined many best stay interview practices in the tips above, but let’s summarize for brevity:

  • Listen first
  • Ask questions that address negatives and positives
  • Avoid questions that only require a yes or no answer
  • Do not dismiss an employee’s opinions, even if you personally disagree
  • Always follow up on changes you discussed in the interview
  • Schedule stay interviews regularly as part of your performance management program

Top 10 Stay Interview Questions to Ask

Every organization is unique, so HR should design stay interview questions to focus on what matters the most at that time. Below are some of our favorite and are sure to deliver great insights from your teams.

  1. What is working?
  2. What isn’t working?
  3. What would make your job even more satisfying?
  4. What gets in the way of you being successful in your job?
  5. What do you most look forward to coming to work every day?
  6. What do you sometimes dread about coming to work?
  7. When was the last time you thought of leaving the company and why?
  8. What should we change about the company or office?
  9. Do you feel you have the tools and resources to perform in your job properly?
  10. What are the top 5 things you need to feel happy and valued?

Stay interviews are an essential tool in the effort to retain employees and ensure your internal culture remains strong and resilient. emPerform helps you customize and manage the review process in a way that allows you to incorporate the necessary check-ins, surveys, and feedback needed to identify and retain a world-class workforce.  

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