C’mon, let’s stick together – Why so many employers are doing ‘Stay’ interviews.

Stay interviews have taken on new importance in the current employment landscape, and a lot of employers are starting to see the benefit of them. Done right, they can be a real contributing factor to increased retention and help you avoid a costly, and frustrating, bad hire.

What is a stay interview?

There seems to be an increasing number of employers building the stay interview into their ongoing employment policy. The reason they are becoming so popular is best summed up by the fact that they are also sometimes known as ‘retention’ interviews. Retention is a hot topic right now and anything that helps employers keep key staff is very welcome.

The idea of a stay interview is deceptively simple as a concept. Basically, it’s all about the employee having the opportunity to discuss the important aspects of their working life, both positive and negative. The benefits are numerous and include:

  • Providing a window to the employee perspective – More specifically the stay interview is focused on what motivates the employee to stay with an employer (or perhaps not). This is invaluable insight and early stay interviews can help spot a potential bad hire developing. When an employee leaves during those early, vulnerable, few weeks, it is often down to some hidden problem. A stay interview not only highlights the good reasons to stay for the employee but may also raise some gripes and problems that can be solved quickly. Even if it isn’t possible to resolve the issue immediately the fact that an employer cares enough to recognise the need to encourage this kind of engagement sends a positive message that could prevent a situation from developing.
  • Boosting engagement – Once an employee is settled in the role, stay interviews are an opportunity to encourage engagement. This can be with the wider aims of the business, but more importantly, a personalised approach ensures that employees feel valued and understood. This creates a desire to engage with the workplace culture and, as we all know, engaged employees are more likely to invest in their work, drive innovation, and contribute positively to the workplace.
  • Promoting job satisfaction – Job satisfaction is probably the most potent weapon against an early departure and the ongoing retention of team members. People rarely leave a job they genuinely like.
  • Stronger Employer/Employee relationships – The employer’s relationship with the workforce is often difficult to assess. In fact, we regularly hear candidates tell us that their employers didn’t fully understand the reasons they felt the need to resign and were shocked when they found there was an issue. The stronger the employer relationship is with the team, the less likely it is that these contrasting views will develop.
  • Building a more focused HR support process – This is probably the most underappreciated benefit of the stay interview. When they are performed regularly, the stay interview can result in some valuable insight into the employee story, from onboarding to continued satisfaction in the role. This releases useful knowledge that otherwise may only come to light in an exit interview. Human resources can then approach their processes armed with first-hand information about where and how, job satisfaction is, or is not, being encouraged.
  • Informing strategic decisions for the future – Following from the above point. The information you are gathering can be used to feed strategic decision making about almost every aspect of the employment cycle. Your decisions will now be firmly grounded in the needs of the team. Not only that, but increased retention brings the stability, productivity and performance that allows employers to confidently plan for growth.

What should happen in a stay interview?

Firstly, the stay interview should be as open and as honest as the situation will allow. To help with that, some employers choose to bring in someone from the outside, others place the responsibility for running them with line managers. The latter can be a problem with there is a management issue though, so it’s important to have a second line of communication as well.

Most of all though, a stay interview should be positive and upbeat in nature. The employee should know in advance that you will be focusing on the positives of their role as well as the negatives. The purpose is to build an ongoing understanding, not just to have a moaning session. Employers do need to expect and accept criticism from the employee though, and any issues raised need to be noted and addressed as soon as possible. These should be focused on realistic actions to avoid becoming defensive or over promising unrealistic solutions. Active listening, open questions, and clear follow-up will all contribute to a successful stay interview.

How is all this different from an employee review?

An employee review serves a very different purpose. The goal of a stay interview is to identify and address factors that can improve employee retention and engagement before issues escalate to the point of someone considering resignation. They tend to be less formal in nature and the frequency can vary according to what suits the business. An early stay interview (perhaps within the first few weeks) for example, can be a very positive tool for retention at a time when an employee review would be inappropriate. Where the employee review is usually conducted on a fixed timetable and is focused on performance and the more tangible outcomes such as training or salary increases, a stay interview is about the work environment and conditions. Changes in team dynamics and career development may well be discussed in both, but a stay interview will be focused on the effect these have on the employee’s wellbeing, whereas the employee review will be more about formal career planning.

The biggest difference between them though is the focus. One is about the continued job satisfaction and retention of the employee, the other is about their performance, achievement, and role within the workforce.

Can stay interviews be used to create a counteroffer for an employee who has resigned?

In theory yes, in practice, it is probably a little too late at that stage. The purpose of the stay interview is to avoid a resignation. If an employer has been conducting them already and still gets a resignation, then there is almost certainly another issue to be dealt with. On top of this, a lot of research and first-hand experience, tells us that counter offering often results in the employee leaving soon afterwards anyway.

When you consider the cost of an accidental bad hire, (an employee who leaves shortly after starting due to something that could have been avoided), there seems to be a clear reason for investigating the idea of stay interviews. Used properly they could enhance the employee experience, form part of an employer offer, and have a significant impact on retention.

The bottom line is that, unfortunately, there is no such thing as a magic bullet for retention. Not all resignations are about employee satisfaction and not all team members will be willing to engage with an employer for a lot of reasons of their own. When a resignation happens, we are here to help you find the right replacements. Useful tools like stay interviews help, but in the end, getting the right candidates in the first place is still the best defence against a bad hire.

Call us and let’s chat about how we can help you as your employment partner.

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