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The Value of Stay Interviews

Written by Jim Skiera and Sheila Beaumier

Should I stay, or should I go now?

Yes, those are lyrics from an eighties song by The Clash, but they run through employees’ heads everywhere daily.  

Employees often dedicated more time weekly to their employers than to their families. For most, work is necessary, and they want to feel trusted, valued, and appreciated. While that seems basic and reasonable, it often does not happen. Why? The why is not so easy. The employer-employee relationship takes work, listening, and communication like every relationship.

For decades many organizations have conducted or attempted to conduct an exit interview with outgoing staff. When you think about it, once you are at that point, when the staff member is leaving, what you learn is too late for any action you may take to affect the outgoing staff member. When you realize three of your staff have left because they did not feel they had the tools to do the job, you will likely create a plan to be sure your other staff members have the tools to do the job. As for the three who left, it’s too late. 

What if you make a slight shift and conduct stay interviews instead? In the stay interview, you have a chance to listen and incorporate the feedback to impact your existing staff, and in turn, the organization retains people. When your folks see this, they feel valued, listened to, and appreciated. When you conduct a stay interview, you find out why people stay and what makes them consider leaving. You have a chance to use the data you collect to improve retention, improve communications, and take action on what is important to your staff. In these meetings, you are building trust and improving communication by merely holding the meetings. When you take action on what you learn, the trust strengthens.

Stay interviews don’t have to be complicated, but you do want to be sure you do them individually and within a short period. Setting the stage for the stay interviews is essential; you don’t want to show up on a site and start pulling people off their jobs and asking questions. So, be sure your management team and your staff know in advance that you will conduct these interviews, what they are, and why you are running them. Ensure your staff knows this initiative is meant to help you understand what is working for them and what they want to see change. Stay interviews generally are twenty minutes to half an hour, but the time frame depends on the number of questions and how much sharing takes place. 

Tips for a successful stay interview

  • Put on your down-to-earth hat, be friendly and make everyone feel comfortable.
  • If you can find a location where folks feel more comfortable, all the better. I am a big fan of picnic table stay interviews, with food, of course, just not in the wintertime in Boston.
  • Don’t use this time to toot your horn. This interview is a time for you to be genuine and show genuine interest in learning and listening.
  • Plan your questions ahead and ask everyone the same questions. Do not ask questions that can be answered with a yes/no response.  
  • Maybe ask:
    • What is your favorite part about your job?
    • If you had a magic wand, what would you change and why?
    • Do you have the tools to do your job?
    • What can I do to help you be successful?
  • Be sure each person knows that you have appreciated their time
  • Keep notes
  • Look for themes
  • Create action plans or involve your staff in the creation of the plans
  • Follow up and let people know about the action plans and implement them.

Are stay interviews for every organization? The truth is no; they are not a good idea for every organization. For example, suppose you have not cultivated a culture of trust and are unwilling to act on what you find out. In that case, it is better to avoid them because if you aren’t going to take action or involve the staff in taking action, you have just ignored your folks and further eroded their trust and they will continue to mumble the lyrics, “Should I stay or should I go”.

If you need more help with stay interviews or assistance with hiring and recruiting, contact ArboRisk to learn more about their Thrive Risk Management Hiring & Recruiting Package.

Tom Dunn