Seven Steps to Effective Employee Stay Interviews

Posted by HelenaNelson on May 30th, 2018

While Exit Interviews deliver useful information about the organization and a departed employee’s manager, when it comes to keeping good people on board, Exit Interviews are analogous to closing the barn door after the horse is out. 

Unlike Performance Reviews, which focus on shortcomings, Stay Interviews are a friendly, on-going conversation about your employees’ job satisfaction as well as their short- and long-term goals and objectives. These conversations can be either formal (a special meeting covering a number of topics) or informal (stopping by someone’s desk to ask a question like: “What is the dumbest rule we have around here?”).

Because employee engagement hinges directly upon the quality of the manager’s relationship with his or her people, with regular use, these two approaches combine to create a highly effective employee retention tool. Stay Interviews are not only foster positive relationships, but serve to continuously improve the employee’s performance as well as your own.
The following seven steps comprise an effective way to create and conduct formal Stay Interviews. (A short list of suggested questions that can be used for both formal and informal discussions follows.)

1. Identify your priorities: Ideally, you’ll perform a Stay Interview with all your direct reports at least once a year, but prioritize the people you would most hate to lose who are at the top of your list.
2. Establish and commit to a schedule. At least one formal meeting per employee per year would be ideal. (Sometime other than when the person’s Performance Review is due).
3. Agree to a meeting date and time. Don’t blindside your people with this discussion. Give them an explanation as to the meeting’s purpose as well as some time to think about any questions or feedback they’d like to offer.
4. Make it comfortable and special. If time and budget allow, make it a lunch outing or at least in some neutral setting even if it’s just the company cafeteria.
5. Create your question list. Some general topics and suggestions follow these steps, but, before you begin, review the person’s employment file, give some thought to your relationship to date, and engage your natural curiosity to jot down the questions that naturally come to mind.
6. Hold the meeting. You are the boss, so do your best to make it non-threatening, informal and friendly. Your intention is to find out how you can keep this person happily engaged and on board for the long term.
7. Wrap it up. At the end of the conversation, summarize the discussion and, if any are needed, agree to the steps you and/or the employee have agreed to take.

Suggested Stay Interview Topics & Questions:

1. Relationships: “How do you like working with the other members of your team?” “Is there anyone here you’d rather not work with?” “Do you feel you can speak with management openly and freely?”
2. Their Job: “"What could we do to make your job more satisfying or easier?" “What do you find most challenging or frustrating about your job and why?” “Do you have any skills or talents we’re not using?”
3. The Organization: “Have we made our mission and vision clear?” “Is there anything you’d like us to do in terms of community involvement?” “If there was one thing you could change about the company, what would it be and why?”
4. Their Future: “Are you interested in a promotion and do you know what it takes to earn one?” “Are you interested in taking any job-related training or courses?”“Is there anything impeding your progress or holding you back?”
5. Job Satisfaction: “Do you feel we recognize your contributions?” “What kind of recognition or appreciation would be meaningful to you?” “On a scale of 1 – 10, how satisfied are you with your job and what would it take to make your response a higher number?”

Mel Kleiman is a consultant, author, and Certified Speaking Professional on strategies for hiring and retaining the best hourly employees. He is the president of Humetrics, a developer of systems, training processes, and tools. Mel’sbooks include the best-selling Hire Tough, Manage Easy and The Five Firsts: A Simple System to Onboard, Engage & Retain Top Talent.

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