Ellen Warden, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
WorkPlace Synergy, LLC
Don’t wait for your staff to leave and then use an Exit Interview to ask what caused them to look for another job. Use a Stay Interview to ask what makes them want to keep working for you now – before they become dissatisfied.
A Stay Interview is not about convincing a key employee to stay after she has just resigned. An effective Stay Interview can reveal what the firm is doing well, what motivates your employees to stay and what might make key employees want to leave. It can give you insight about what the firm can improve, and how you can retain valued employees before it’s too late.
Employees like being heard, which engenders stronger loyalty and commitment to the firm. In other words, just asking the questions is a retention strategy. You show that you recognize and appreciate their loyalty, you care about more than just their performance, you’re open to making changes that would bring them more satisfaction.
Start off with something like:
Sally, I want you to know that we appreciate your commitment to the firm and the great work that you have been doing. As one of our key employees, I want to be sure I’m doing what I can to help you build a rewarding career here. I’d like to ask some questions to can help me understand what causes you to enjoy your job and stay here.
Use these questions to encourage your employee to openly and fully describe his/her stay factors, concerns and requests:
- What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning? What can make a great day for you?
- What makes you hit the snooze button? What enters your mind that keeps you up at night or while driving to work, or that causes you to dread having to come to work at all?
- If you have ever been asked by a close friend or have been contacted by an external recruiter, what reasons did you give them for wanting to stay at our firm? If you were to win the lottery and resign, what would you miss the most?
- What would make you leave the firm for another job? When was the last time you thought about leaving? What prompted it? Does this still concern you? What’s the most meaningful action I could take to address this issue?
- When do you feel most appreciated for what you do? What kind of recognition would be meaningful for you? What kind of feedback would you like about your performance that you are not currently receiving?
- What about your work makes you proud? What have you felt good about accomplishing in your job and in your time here?
- What are your career goals? Do you have a desire to move into a leadership role? If so, what are your expectations, timetable, and concerns?
- What untapped talents, interests or skills do you have that you would like to use or develop? What opportunities for self-improvement would you like to have? What is something new you would like to learn this year?
- What keeps you from doing the best you can? Think back to a time in the last 12 months when you have been at least slightly frustrated or anxious about your current role. What factors contributed most to that anxiety? What eventually happened to lower that frustration level?
- What are the strengths of our working relationship? What should I do more of? Less of? Is there anything I do that strikes you as particularly unfair or unreasonable? What can I do to make your experience at work better for you?
Replacing your leading employees is time-consuming and costly. It may not always be possible to prevent or delay a key employee from leaving, but Stay Interviews help you build a comfortable, open and trusting relationship with each one of your employees.
Final thought… Conducting Stay Interviews is only as valuable as your follow-up actions. If you spend time speaking with an employee but then don’t take that next step to make changes as a result of the Stay Interview, you destroy all credibility. Ensure you follow through on your commitments.