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7 reasons why stay interviews drive employee retention

August 11, 2022 - 14 min read
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    The pendulum has swung back from the Great Resignation

    While employees are still quitting their jobs, the labor market has tightened its grip. But one thing has stayed consistent in today’s environment. Companies everywhere are doing whatever they can to hold onto their top talent. 

    For many organizations, this means examining what they can do to retain their employees. But employee retention starts with understanding what employees want, what they like, and what they’d like to change. 

    Stay interviews have grown increasingly popular, especially in today’s climate. In fact, one survey reported that more than 50% of respondents were already conducting stay interviews or planning to start doing so soon. 

    As we continue to adjust to the new normal, agility is more important than ever. Stay interviews are an important employee retention lever. They help you understand what's keeping your people from leaving (or why they might be tempted to leave in the first place). 

    Let’s dive into what a stay interview is, the effectiveness of stay interviews, and questions you can start asking today. 

    What is a stay interview? 

    Before we dig in deeper, let’s understand what a stay interview is. 

    Stay interviews are essentially useful feedback mechanisms to get a pulse on your employee sentiment. Your company probably has multiple feedback touchpoints in the employee experience cycle. 

    For some, it might be an annual employee engagement survey. Others might use regular pulse surveys or some other sort of micro-feedback mechanism. Some companies also use exit interviews or even candidate experience surveys. And, of course, most companies have some sort of performance review process. 

    But stay interviews are often overlooked. It’s not often that employees get the chance to dive deep — with a live conversation — about their current employee experience. 

    At BetterUp, we conduct what we call a Culture Canvass and a Culture Caucus bi-annually. As a company, we pause and reflect on the current employee experience and company culture. All employees are required to participate, as we all consider ourselves BetterUp Citizens and Owners in this process. 

    Our leadership teams asks all employees to provide feedback. What’s going well within BetterUp? What are some pain points? What are some things you think we can improve on? 

    While it’s not a formalized stay interview, it’s a launchpad for larger stay interview discussions. Managers are encouraged to talk with their teams about their experiences — and the Culture Caucus is the impetus for it. 

    Think about ways you can see stay interviews working within your organization. We’ll get into the effectiveness of stay interviews — and what sort of questions you can ask next. 

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    Are stay interviews effective? 

    Effective stay interviews can have incredible benefits for your team members and your business. Here are seven reasons why you should start capturing employee feedback through stay interviews: 

    • Regular check-ins help your employees feel heard and validated. If we’ve learned anything about feedback, it’s that employees need to be listened to. Stay interviews are a great way to make your employees feel heard and validated, even if there’s constructive feedback shared. When you listen to your employees, you build trust and psychological safety in the workplace.  
    • Stay interviews can help increase employee satisfaction and employee engagement. Dick Finnegan, author and HR industry expert, has studied employee engagement and employee retention.

      In his book, The Power of Stay Interviews, Finnegan cites that stay interviews are critical drivers of employee engagement. Finnegan argues that stay interviews are more impactful than employee engagement surveys.
    • They can help your organization pivot to create positive change. Hopefully, your organization is looking for feedback to help make your company better. At BetterUp, we look at feedback as a gift, a way to create change that betters us and the world around us. 
    • Stay interviews can help bring equilibrium back to the work-life balance scale. Keeping a close pulse on your employees’ work-life balance is more important than ever. With a blurred line between work and personal life, it’s important that employers are doing their part to maintain and respect boundaries.

      Stay interviews are a great way to keep a close eye on that teetering scale. Once it’s a little bit off-kilter, it’s easy to slide into dangerous burnout zones.  

    stay-interviews-two-colleagues-at-table-working-talking

    • Especially in remote work environments, stay interviews keep lines of communication open. With the rise of hybrid and remote work, communication can feel more siloed. After all, employees are working behind screens.

      Nonverbal and body language cues are harder to pick up on, and those in-person connections may be lacking. But providing open forums for feedback like stay interviews can help keep those lines of communication open. 
    • They can help inform your human resources team on what programs and/or initiatives employees want. At BetterUp, we don’t just have conversations around feedback. We have what we call Culture Commits.

      It’s the follow-up to our Culture Canvass and Culture Caucus. And oftentimes, our human resources team looks to our employees to help generate feedback on what programs or initiatives can be implemented.

      Stay interviews can be a useful tool for digging into employee appetite for certain HR programs or initiatives. For example, at our last Culture Caucus, our employees asked for more employee well-being options. As a commit or follow-up, BetterUp launched a $50 monthly stipend as part of our well-being program. 

    What are some stay interview questions? 

    Especially if you’re looking to hold onto your top performers, you need good stay interview questions. If you’re not sure of good interview questions, we’ve got you covered. Here are 16 questions you can ask in a stay interview. 

    Questions about workplace and culture 

    1. What do you like most about working here? 
    2. What’s one thing about our workplace culture that you’d like to improve? 
    3. How willing are people to collaborate and work well with one another? 

    Questions about leadership and management 

    1. How can I better support your career goals and aspirations? 
    2. What do you like about leadership here?  
    3. As your manager, what can I do more (or less) of?  
    4. What’s one thing you wish the leadership team understood about your employee experience here? 

    stay-interviews-two-colleagues-in-conversation

    Questions about overall satisfaction 

    1. Do you feel like a valued employee? Why or not? 
    2. Do you feel like there are employee recognition opportunities? How can we do a better job of recognizing valuable employees? 
    3. If you could get rid of any part of your job, what would it be and why? 
    4. What would tempt you to leave? 
    5. If you’ve thought about leaving, what are some reasons why? 

    Questions about career development and growth 

    1. What skills do you want to build or learn?  
    2. In what ways can I help you invest in your professional development?  
    3. It’s common that employees leave for better growth opportunities. What would make you solidify your stay plans in terms of your career development?  
    4. How can I be an advocate for your career development here? Where do you see yourself taking your career in this company? 
    5. What strengths are you not using in your current role? 
    questions for a stay interview_Apr2022

    How to implement stay interviews in your company 

    You might be looking to implement stay interviews for individual employees, top-performing employees, or your entire workforce. No matter your situation, it takes some care. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to implement stay interviews in your company. 

    • Make sure your organization has invested in building psychological safety and trust. It’s likely your employees won’t give you valuable feedback unless you’ve built trust.

      Lean on your inclusive leadership skills to help build that bedrock of psychological safety. With trust as your safety net, your employees can feel safe opening up and being candid with their feedback. 
    • Be open, transparent, and vulnerable about what you’re looking for. Give context to your employees. Make sure you’re communicating “the why” behind the stay interview and reiterate the desired goals.

      Your employees are valuable contributors to building (and maintaining) a positive workplace. Give them ownership in the experience and be transparent about your own feedback, too. 
    • Weave stay interviews into the onboarding process. Stay interviews aren’t just for the long-time employees of the company. Think of ways you can make stay interviews hit at the 30-60-90-day mark of your employee onboarding.

      Getting a pulse early on can help your organization course correct where needed. It might also identify earlier problems that can deter bigger ones from evolving over time. 
    • Conduct stay interviews with tenured employees (especially top-performing ones). In a time when companies are being asked to deliver more with less, you want to keep your top performers.

      Make sure you’ve set the stage for your top-performing employees. You want to keep them happy. You want to listen and make them feel heard. 
    • Listen more than you speak. We’ve all been in meetings where it’s hard to get a word in. But when it comes to feedback, it’s important to listen more than you speak.

      The same goes for stay interviews. How are you tugging on your listening skills in the stay interview? 
    • Lean on your coach for guidance. If the concept of a stay interview is unnerving, lean on your coach.

      With BetterUp, your coach can help guide you through the stay interview process. From handling constructive feedback to asking good (and direct) questions, it’s important to use your coach as your resource. 

    stay-interviews-virtual-call-checking-in-with-colleague

    Start conducting stay interviews today 

    This is a challenging period of time for many employers. With companies looking for ways to keep employee engagement high and turnover low, stay interviews can be your secret weapon. 

    But any sort of feedback mechanism needs the proper support. With BetterUp, you can make sure your workforce is well-equipped to handle both giving and receiving feedback. And that stay interview feedback can be the change-maker your organization needs to stay ahead. 

    BetterUp helps make sure your people are using their strengths and improving on their areas of opportunity. The result? A higher-performing organization that’s ready for anything the future holds. 

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    Published August 11, 2022

    Madeline Miles

    Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.

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