Are “stay” interviews the key to retaining talented staff?

The concept of the exit interview is not new. 

Many companies conduct these interviews after an employee has handed in their notice, so they can find out more about what drove them to leave.  Potentially, the company will also use exit interview feedback to benefit the employees who remain.

However, while exit interviews can work well in terms of future strategy development, they are less effective as a retention tool, since they only occur after an employee has already decided to leave.  

As such, insights gained from exit interviews may not be as useful as hoped.  David D’Souza, membership director at the CIPD, points out that they offer “an edited view of the world… as (leaving staff members) don’t have much stake in the organisation”. 

This lack of stake in the organisation doesn’t just mean it’s too late to retain that particular employee, it could even prompt some senior managers into disregarding exit interview feedback altogether.  As they may choose to see it, if leaving employees were not committed or engaged enough to remain with the company, why listen to them?

All of this is why, in these uncertain and ever-changing times, it could be that ‘stay’ interviews hold the key to retaining talented employees.

The rise of the stay interview

The concept of the stay, or retention, interview is also not new.

Yet these interviews have risen to global prominence in recent years, with a CNBC article even declaring them “the next big trend of the Great Resignation” for their potential power to stop valuable staff from leaving.

The CIPD class stay interviews as “(an) opportunity (for organisations) to assess what improvements can be made now to avoid further resignations.  They provide a more personal platform… (which) allows for the building of trust between employees and managers”.

Why hold stay interviews at all?

After two draining years of the Covid pandemic, during which the majority of office-bound employees worked from home, holding stay interviews offers managers the chance to check in personally with their staff as individuals.

“What we’re seeing globally is that Covid has accelerated burnout,” says Lily Valentin, head of operations for North America at Adzuna.  “Employees have lost coping mechanisms.”

Stay interviews may also help to reassure employees that their thoughts and opinions matter, and that they are valuable members of the organisation. 

Such reassurance could be particularly welcome as the working world returns to ‘normal’, and news of shocking company decisions, such as the recent P&O sackings, make global headlines.

How to conduct a stay interview

A stay interview should take the form of an informal, one-to-one conversation between an employee and their manager. 

Time-pressed managers need not worry about overly lengthy discussions: according to the CIPD, a stay interview can be completed in “as little as 20 minutes”, perhaps 2-4 times a year so as not to let issues build up.

From the start, the manager should do their best to create an atmosphere of psychological safety and confidence for the employee, who in turn should feel able to speak honestly without fear of recrimination. 

(If this means holding stay interviews away from the office environment, so be it – but don’t swap the office for a noisy coffee shop!)

Key points to cover in the conversation could include what the employee likes and dislikes about working for the company, and whether they would recommend it to others.  Does the company offer a viable platform for potential career advancement; if not, how could this be improved?  What might tempt the employee to leave the company right now?

Key points to note

While stay interviews can offer a wealth of benefits, they will do more harm than good if conducted by managers who are unwilling to listen, and/or accept criticism.  It is therefore essential that managers are properly trained in listening and coaching skills, as well as being able to ask the right questions or ask their HR professionals to carry out the stay interviews.

Organisations must also be ready to discuss and potentially implement change following stay interviews, with key decisions clearly communicated company-wide.

To discuss stay interviews in further detail, along with alternative methods of retaining talented staff, please contact our experienced team at Viridian HR.




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