In a stay interview, an employee meets one-on-one with a supervisor to discuss his or her satisfaction with the company. The idea is to learn about what is and isn’t working, so managers can adjust their efforts to retain staff. The goal is to catch problems before employees decide to take off.
In a recent survey by administrative staffing firm OfficeTeam, 27 percent of human resource professionals said they’d never even heard of the concept of a stay interview. What’s more, another 41 percent said they weren’t sure how useful they are — mostly because they hadn’t conducted them very often.
Nevertheless, a stay interview can prove effective as long as these five steps are followed:
Start off on the right foot: Since many employees may be unfamiliar with the concept of a stay interview, a clear explanation of the process — including a review of the goals and types of information that will be sought — is needed before managers begin. This could prevent skeptical workers from wondering, “Why are you asking these questions? Is there a reason I shouldn’t stay with the organization?”
Ask the right questions: Avoid closed-ended questions that yield “yes” or “no” responses. They won’t provide useful feedback. To gain specific information, it’s better to ask questions such as: Which aspects of your job make you eager to get into the office each day? Which aspects cause a feeling of dread? Why have you chosen to stay at our company? What do you find most rewarding about your work? If you could change one thing about our department or about the entire organization, what would it be? What skills or talents do you possess that aren’t being used in your job?
Most important, stay interviews should be conducted separately from performance reviews. Stay interviews are designed to gain insights into what motivates employees and keeps them invested in the firm. Performance reviews, on the other hand, are intended to give staff a candid assessment of their work.
Although the two meetings should be separate, they complement each other and give employees a chance to discuss their feedback more than once during a year.
Make it a positive experience: Managers can make the experience a positive one if they listen more than they talk. When it is time to talk, it is not the venue for a supervisor to get defensive if he or she disagrees with an employee’s concerns or comments.
If staff feel like they’re engaging in a debate, they’re not likely to be candid with further responses. The best questions will attempt to elicit opinions on the work environment, company culture and advancement opportunities rather than on specific people.
Consider the participant list: Some firms prefer to conduct stay interviews with top employees only, since the goal is to retain their best and brightest, not their poor performers. However, careful thought should be given before limiting these meetings. If select individuals are singled out for stay interviews, other employees may wonder why managers don’t value their opinions or want to improve their job experiences. Stay interviews should boost — not deflate — general morale.
Follow through: One of the most important steps in a stay interview is taking action afterward. There’s no point in meeting with employees to address their concerns if there’s no genuine intention to make changes as a result of those discussions. Leaders should let staff know what they hope to do to make improvements, including the anticipated timelines and plans.
One final consideration is timing. Managers shouldn’t wait until there’s a noticeable morale problem to launch stay interviews. Making them a routine part of company life will show that the organization is sincerely interested in boosting job satisfaction.
Robert Hosking is executive director of OfficeTeam, a staffing service specializing in the temporary placement of administrative and office support professionals. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.