Stay interviews help to avoid exit interviews - Small Business Association of Michigan

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Stay interviews help to avoid exit interviews

Stay interviews help to avoid exit interviews

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Stay interviews are the best defense against employee attrition.  While exit interviews can have value, you are finding out the information too late.  By conducting regular stay interviews, you’ll discover exactly what employees like and don’t like about their job and the workplace.  This allows you to make changes before employees leave, resulting in reduced employee turnover.

While stay interviews can provide some of the same information as an employee satisfaction survey, stay interviews provide two-way conversation. This allows to get more in depth and ask questions.  You can also personally follow-up to give continued feedback on any issues presented.

For stay interviews to be successful, there must be a culture of trust present in the workplace.  Without trust, employees will not be fully honest in the interview.  Employees must feel that you are serious about making changes to the work environment.  If they feel that no matter what they say, nothing will change, then you’ll be less likely to get useful feedback.  Before implementing stay interviews, be sure that leadership is committed to making positive changes based on employee feedback.  When changes are made, be sure to point out to employees that the change was based on employee feedback. Don’t assume they’ll automatically make that connection.

Stay interviews should be conducted once a year at a minimum, but preferably more often.  The interview should be conducted by the employee’s direct manager – who has the most impact on the employee’s everyday working conditions.  Managers should be trained on how to conduct a proper stay interview.  The biggest fear managers have regarding stay interviews is that the employee will ask for a raise.  But his fear is largely unfounded.  Webroot Software in Colorado added stay interviews to their 400-person company at a time when they were experiencing high attrition rates.  Human Resource Director Melanie Williams stated, “We’ve had very few stay interviews come in with pay being the thing that makes them stay or want to leave.  There were not any requests that we haven’t been able to fulfill.”

To help managers get started, below are some questions that SHRM recommends when conducting stay interviews:
  • What do you look forward to when you come to work each day?
  • What do you like most or least about working here?
  • What keeps you working here?
  • If you could change something about your job, what would that be?
  • What would make your job more satisfying?
  • How do you like to be recognized?
  • What talents are not being used in your current role?
  • What would you like to learn here?
  • What motivates or demotivates you?
  • What can I do best to support you?
  • What can I do more or less of as your manager?
  • What might tempt you to leave?

It’s important not to trivialize employee concerns or make excuses.  Doing so will derail the entire process and make the interviews ineffective.  SHRM also gives examples of how to close a stay interview.  They suggest repeating back to the employee some of the key points they stated and expressing your commitment to making your workplace a great place to work and to bring larger, company-wide issues to leadership’s attention.

Adding stay interviews to your current retention program can help retain your most valuable employees. 
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