Prevent Having Exit Interviews by Conducting Stay Interviews

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Have you ever had an employee that you wish you could clone? One that you just don’t know what you would do without? Aside from a monetary raise, do you think there is anything you should do to keep them in the company as long as possible?

That is where stay interviews come into play. Learning why people like their jobs, their level of job satisfaction, and which components of the job influence an employee to stay (or leave) can be an important part of your employee review process.  Why is this valuable information? For multiple reasons, really; it can help ensure that you keep valued employees in their current role for as long as possible, it can help plan your succession management process, and it can also help your company uncover job promotion aspirations that your employees have.

How do I conduct a stay interview?

Effective stay interviews are structured protocols with a manager or an HR representative posing some pre-determined open-ended questions. Because they are so structured, employees are usually more comfortable participating in a stay interview in common areas such as cafeterias or meeting rooms rather than in a manager’s office.  Irrespective of who conducts the interview, it should be done in a casual and conversational manner. Most stay interviews take less than an hour to complete and conclude with the employee feeling that he/she can come forward with more information if they choose.

The stay interview can be thought of as having three parts; an opening to set the context, some probing questions to elicit information and a close to narrow expectations as to any follow up.  A typical opening might sound like, “I’d like to have an informal talk with you to find out how the job is going so I can do my best to support you in your role.  More generally, I’d like to learn your perspectives as to how we might be able to make this company an even better place to work than it is already.”

The following are some questions you may ask during a stay interview. As a rule of thumb, questions should be open ended and  be designed to have you listen more than talk.   

  • What aspects of your job do you look forward to when you come to work each day?
  • What aspects of your job do you think about on your commute home?
  • What do you like most or least about working here?
  • If you could change something about your job, what would that be?
  • Which of your talents are not being used in your current role?
  • What aspirations do you have for learning and contributing more?
  • What really excites you about your job here?
  • What might tempt you to leave the organization?

To close out the stay interview, paraphrase or summarize what you heard.  In that way, the individual employee will be reassured that you listened and understood the intended message.  A good closing might sound like; “Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me today.  It sounds like there are two or three things that are important to you in your job including . . .”. 

Overall, stay interviews convey a more than implicit message that you value the individual employee’s contributions to the organization and that you want them to continue.  They also represent a valuable touch point with employees who will feel appreciative that you solicited their input.

To learn more about stay interviews and their importance in succession planning, download the free ebook:  Succession Planning in Higher Education.

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