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How to use stay interviews to retain staff

Employees are thinking about their life and career choices now more than ever. With the Great Resignation in full swing as well as the ongoing pandemic, employees’ expectations are evolving at a very fast pace. One tactic currently being used to try and retain current employees are stay interviews. 

Stay interviews are a great technique to increase staff retention but there are definitely right and wrong ways of conducting them. At Adzuna, we have put together some top tips to make sure you get stay interviews right.


What are ‘stay interviews?’

Employers will know that the concept of ‘stay interviews’ is nothing new. It has definitely been around for a while under various names.

For those of you who are less familiar with the term, a stay interview is essentially an informal discussion between a manager and an employee. The conversation should unfold naturally but should tend to focus on what is motivating the employee to stay, what they enjoy about their current position, what would improve their work experience, and their career development goals within the organisation. Stay interviews should be private, one-on-one discussions.

There is no better time to implement stay interviews. The Great Resignation is not just a trend in the US, it is also happening on this side of the pond. Studies have shown that almost 70% of British employees feel confident about moving to a new job in the next couple of months. Almost a quarter of UK employees have a plan for moving jobs in the next three to six months. By implementing stay interviews, you will have the best chance of preventing your best talent from leaving. 

Sounds interesting, right? Well, here are 5 top tips on how to ace conducting stay interviews.


1. Get the timing right

The first thing to note is that stay interviews should not take place instead of a probationary or annual review. It is very easy to forget this and merge every meeting and review into one but it is important that stay interviews are an additional conversation. 

Make sure that employees are fully settled in their role and work environment before conducting stay interviews. This will help you to get the best quality feedback possible. To avoid this, whilst making new joiners feel welcome, be sure to include stay interviews in onboarding programs to ensure that they are completed at regular intervals. This will ensure that employees can provide a detailed level of feedback at various stages. 

Try and avoid scheduling stay interviews around tight deadlines, if possible. Employees will not want to engage in detail and may come across as more negative than they feel. 


2. Ask the right questions

Be sure to ask a variety of questions, such as:

  • How are you feeling in your role? 
  • What motivates you to “come in” to work/log on every day? 
  • Which challenges are you facing that prevent you from delivering your best outputs?
  • What do you think the team and company can do to alleviate these challenges? 
  • Are you able to find a positive work-life balance, and if not, what can we do to help?
  • Is there anything you really don’t enjoy working on?
  • Is there anything you are looking to work on more? 
  • What are your longer-term career aspirations?

There are some great examples in the above list, which can provide some detailed answers. It is important to stick to open-ended questions like these, rather than questions that will be answered with a simple yes or no. You won’t really get many helpful answers that can result in actions if employees can only reply ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘I don’t know.’

Surprisingly, it is also important to ask awkward questions. The information that employees can gather from these questions, which may make you squirm, can be really valuable in preventing employees from leaving. As a result of these awkward conversations, pay rises, title changes, and additional resources and opportunities can be implemented. Ultimately, this will benefit the employee and the employer massively, as this level of communication will encourage the employee to stay. Without these conversations, employees may feel like they are stagnating and will seek better opportunities elsewhere. 

Make sure that you are not asking for updates on tasks, to-dos, or projects. Remember this is supposed to be informal!


3. Choose the right setting

This is where it is important to remember that stay interviews are informal conversations. No one wants to be stuck in a dull, lifeless board room for longer than they have to, so, this is a great chance to change the work environment slightly.

It is wise to go for a coffee or on a walk for the stay interview. This will make it feel less like an interrogation and make the employee feel like you do actually care. As a result, you will get much more honest and useful feedback.


4. Encourage preparation

Although stay interviews are informal in nature, it is definitely worth encouraging employees to prepare some points to discuss. Employees should think of what they really enjoy in their role as well as some areas which they don’t enjoy.

Employees should definitely be encouraged to prepare some questions too. This could be about anything work-related, such as their performance, projects, benefits, and flexible working. 

There may be some constructive criticism brought up by employees, however, they should remember that this is not the time to slate co-workers or start swearing about everything that they are frustrated about. It may be an informal chat but it should still be pretty professional. This is when preparation can really come in handy, as employees will have a set idea of what they want to discuss so there are no massive surprises for either party.


5. Take feedback on board and make changes

It is important to really listen and take the feedback given by the employee on board. Employees may struggle to be honest in any future reviews if they don’t feel like they are being listened to.

It may seem obvious to just sit and listen, but it might not be as easy in the moment. You may hear some negative comments from employees, which can be very easy to take personally. Make sure to remember to jot down anything which can benefit the company and individuals in the long run. Remember that most comments aren’t a personal attack, so try not to make the employees’ emotions seem invalid. Make sure that you express your gratitude to the employee

There are ways to show that you have taken the feedback, and general interview seriously. An example of this is if employees feel like they are unsure what their career path or next steps look like, try to provide resources, training, and other opportunities. This will benefit the employee, as they will have clarification on any issues. You will also benefit from acting upon feedback, as the employee is more likely to stay in the company for a longer period of time. 

Although it isn’t easy to know exactly how successful a stay interview has been, there are definitely things that both sides of the interview can do. Following the interview itself, be sure to revisit the feedback offered through informal check-ins. Also send out anonymous surveys to really understand the benefits of stay interviews. 


Now what?

Review the processes currently in place in your company. If stay interviews aren’t currently being completed, it will undoubtedly be very valuable to start. Employees aren’t short of choices and are willing to switch roles and companies very quickly. By offering stay interviews, employees will feel valued and companies will be able to retain their top talent.


💡 Read more: How is employee burnout being tackled in 2022?

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