Human Resources

Stay Interviews: What They Are, Why They’re Important, and How to Conduct Them

Exit interviews have long been used by organizations to get input and insights from departing employees about the reasons they made a decision to seek employment elsewhere. Whether conducted in person or done through a written or online assessment, these interviews have often been questioned in terms of their accuracy—there is a tendency for exit interviews to generate input skewed toward two different ends of a spectrum, employees who are overly positive because they fear some future backlash and employees who are overly negative because they have an ax to grind.

With a monthly voluntary quit rate at 2.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and a tightening labor market, many employers are finding that waiting to get input at the time of employee exit is too late. These employers are turning to another source of input designed to proactively provide an opportunity to address any issues before an employee seeks a job elsewhere: the stay interview.

Unlike exit interviews, which usually take place between HR staff members, rather than managers, stay interviews are generally conducted between employees and their direct supervisors or managers. They’re designed to help managers identify ways to ensure the work environment is meeting an employee’s needs. How many managers have been taken off guard by an employee’s resignation, only to think: “If only I’d known …”? Conducting stay interviews provides an opportunity to learn about issues within the organization that may be creating dissatisfaction and potential new opportunities that would serve to motivate employees, increasing their engagement and loyalty.

In an Entrepreneur article, “Forget ‘Exit Interviews.’ Here’s Why You Should Conduct Stay Interviews Instead,” Curtis Odom offers some tips for conducting these interviews:

  • Ask questions that are simple and informal.
  • Ask what motivates the employee to stay with the organization.
  • Ask what drives the employee to succeed.
  • Ask about elements of the culture that the employee does and does not find motivating
  • Ask, “If you were your own manager, how would you manage yourself?”
  • Ask what might be missing in the work environment and what you could do to make the employee’s experience more rewarding.

Organizations and managers may certainly not be able to meet all of an employee’s needs; that’s not what the stay interview is about. It’s simply an opportunity to gain insights before a decision to seek or accept another job—a proactive way to boost the odds that when seeking new opportunities, your best employees will choose you!