Conducting A Stay Interview At Work

The stay interview

How this earlier conversation is showing the exit interview the door

Written by Professor Gary Martin FAIM
2 minute read
Conducting A Stay Interview At Work

With the country’s unemployment rate at an extreme low, the job market remains exceptionally tight.

The number of job candidates is shrinking fast and most bosses fear they will be unable to find suitable replacements should employees decide to move on.

It has prompted those in charge to consider a range of different ways to hang on to their staff, including through the use of the “stay interview”.

We are all familiar with the concept of the “exit interview”, which is used to work out why an employee is leaving.

Yet exit interviews end up being as useful as a concrete life jacket.

Those departing are often reluctant to be honest in their interviews because they want to keep alive the opportunity of a “boomerang” back to their employer should things not work out with their new boss. It means the quality of information gleaned from exits interviews is often unreliable.

Exit interviews focus on the wrong people – those leaving instead of those staying.

So while an exit interview asks an employee why they are leaving, a stay interview is a discussion about what might motivate them to stay.

The typical stay interview is a conversation that provides an opportunity for employees to voice any concerns about their job before they become disenchanted and start applying for other positions.

Stay interviews are informal and conversational and should provide a psychologically safe environment in which an employee can speak freely without fear of backlash or retribution.

Employees are typically given an opportunity to share what they enjoy about work, explain how they might be better supported and make specific suggestions about what could be done to provide an improved workplace experience.

While some consider stay interviews to be for those who have been in the workplace for some time, they can be just as important for new hires. They are particularly suitable for those experiencing difficulty adjusting to a new environment and considering “pulling the plug” early on.

Ironically, stay interviews – if handled poorly – can end up achieving the opposite to their intended purpose and fast-track an employee’s exit.

This might occur if an employee views a discussion as more of an interrogation than an opportunity to provide genuine feedback. And if the person organising the interview becomes defensive when faced with the employee’s feedback, or the conversation is arranged only when an employee is already completely disenfranchised.

While stay interviews are no magic bullet when it comes to retaining valued staff, they do help to promote a more intimate relationship between employers and employees and go a long way to helping stayers feel better understood and more committed.

With many organisations transitioning from what is being dubbed “The Great Resignation” to “The Great Retention”, chances are you will soon hear much more about the staying power of this new workplace trend.