Proactively Impacting Retention Through Stay Interviews

Written by: Lorrie Howard, Horizon Point Consulting

How often as leaders do you wish you could convince an employee to stay after they’ve turned in their resignation? What if you could change their mind before they reached the point of no return?

Organizations often sit down with employees after they’ve tendered their resignation to find out why they decided to leave. But how often do leaders sit down with employees to find out what can be done to ensure that they stay with the organization?

Exit interviews usually consist of questions surrounding the reason for leaving including dissatisfaction with leadership, the organization, and benefits offered. But by the time leadership sits down with an employee to conduct an exit interview, the employee has already checked out. While in many cases the employee will be forthcoming with information on why they’ve chosen to leave, often times the employee no longer cares about providing their honest feedback. The damage has already been done and they’re ready to move on. While information gathered in the exit interview can be helpful in making necessary changes in the organization for current and future employees, it won’t help with the loss of the employee being interviewed.

In an interview with Forbes Magazine, Richard Finnegan, author of The Stay Interview, said “Hard data proves the top reason employees quit is they don’t trust their managers. Stay Interviews are the absolute best trust-building activity…and therefore the best retention tool.”

So how do stay interviews differ from exit interviews, other than the obvious fact of when they are conducted?

  • Stay interviews focus on the positive. What do employees like about their job? What makes them want to come to work each day? What do they like about their leadership? Where do they see themselves going within the organization? What areas of the organization do they feel they can make a bigger impact in?
  • They allow leadership to focus on the individual. Exit interviews focus on the company overall, from the leadership team, to benefits offered, to company culture. Stay interviews allow managers to focus on the individual employee. What drives them to be successful in their role? What are their career aspirations within the organization? How can leadership help them to reach (or exceed) their goals by helping them continue to grow their knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs)? What KSAs do they have that are not being fully utilized by the organization?
  • It helps to build trust with leadership. As Richard Finnegan said, most employees choose to leave because of a lack of trust with their leadership. Often this lack of trust stems from a lack of communication between employees and their managers. While many managers have conversations with their employees, those conversations are often limited to passing in the hall, quick catch ups on tasks assigned, and performance counseling. Performance reviews are usually conducted annually and too often focus on past shortfalls in performance and what the manager wants to see in future performance. Many performance review structures don’t allow for employee input in goal setting, which greatly affects employee buy in. By conducting stay interviews, the employee is given the opportunity to discuss what drives them, what their career goals are, what they feel their strengths and weaknesses are, and what areas they’d like to improve on.
  • They can help predict future turnover. Stay interviews can help leadership pinpoint those employees who are happy in the organization and those who are not. By determining which employees are at a higher risk for leaving the organization, leadership creates an opportunity to improve the individual morale of those employees. It may also help leadership to determine if it’s too late to make an impact on an employee’s view of the organization. At which point, leadership may begin to look at succession planning for that position in preparation of a potential resignation.

What impact would stay interviews have for your organization?

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