A young man and a young woman sit on a couch in a bright office having an informal stay interview.
Image: © Monkey Business/Stock.adobe.com

The rising need for ‘stay interviews’ in staff retention

19 Sep 2022

With employee engagement and staff retention presenting major challenges for employers, the ‘stay interview’ could become a vital tool for HR.

Retaining talent is one of the biggest challenges for employers at the moment.

Whether it’s phrases such as the ‘great resignation’ or ‘quiet quitting’ being bandied about, it highlights a need to ensure that workers are engaged and happy to reduce the risk of losing them altogether.

One way to keep employees engaged is through ‘stay interviews’ – informal meetings with current employees to check in with them, ensure they’re happy and explore any pain points that may exist.

In a recent survey from Taxback.com, 88pc of workers who took part said they would support the introduction of stay interviews, but only four in 10 organisations surveyed currently employ this practice.

Taxback.com’s Barry Cahill said the stay interview may become a more common tool used by HR going forward.

“On the whole, people feel stay interviews represent a step in the right direction for businesses, though many (45pc) believe, for it to work, the onus would be on employers to ensure that staff feel comfortable in coming forward to openly discuss their experience with the company,” he said.

“Think of a stay interview as the opposite of an exit interview. Rather than find out why an employee wants to leave, they are about finding out what motivates them to stay – its primary purpose being staff retention and a happy workforce.”

Leslie Tarnacki is SVP of HR at WorkForce Software. She told SiliconRepublic.com that stay interviews can be “extremely insightful” for the employer and also give the employee an added sense of value.

“At a time when employees aren’t short of choice, but are having concerns about a potential recession and job security, knowing that their current employer cares about their experience, work situation and professional ambitions, and that their employer is eager to address any challenges, makes all the difference.”

How to conduct a stay interview

The stay interview should be an informal conversation between an employee and their manager that focuses on what is motivating the employee to stay, what they enjoy about their current position, their career development goals within the organisation and what would improve their work experience.

The format of the meeting needs to be well thought out to ensure a safe space for employees to voice any difficulties with their experience, their duties or relationships with management.

Tarnacki said employers should be using these meetings to find out how the employee feels about their day-to-day work and the value of their contributions, rather than asking for updates on tasks, to-dos and projects.

She added that some questions for employers to consider asking include:

  • How are you feeling in your role?
  • What motivates you to come in or log on to work every day?
  • What are some of the challenges you’re facing that prevent you from delivering your best outputs, and what do you think the team and company can do to alleviate these challenges?
  • Are you able to find a positive work-life balance, and if not, what can we do to help?
  • Is there anything you really don’t enjoy working on, and is there anything you are looking to work on more?
  • What are your longer-term career aspirations?

“As the great resignation continues, it’s important that employers also know what would cause their employees to potentially leave the company,” she said.

“Having a better understanding of whether employees feel they deserve more recognition in the form of a pay raise or title change can help prevent them from leaving without warning, in order to climb the career ladder elsewhere.”

Tarnacki added that a stay interview can uncover if an employee is unsure about what the next step in their career looks like, allowing employers to provide additional resources and opportunities to help workers grows.

Maintaining employee engagement elsewhere

While stay interviews could be a major step in the right direction in terms of maintaining talent, employers will need to ensure that the main challenges to employee engagement and happiness are addressed.

Tarnacki said providing a healthy culture in which employees feel trusted and have the flexibility to manage a good work-life balance is “one of the best retention strategies out there”.

“Also, creating and sustaining an environment built on transparency and openness is key. Employees need to feel recognised and heard, and leaders must make sure they’re fostering an environment where people feel like they can make mistakes, learn from them and share ideas without judgment.

And of course, employees still require meaningful and tangible benefits to ensure they feel appreciated, from pay increases and pension contributions to more paid time off and access to wellness resources.

Even when an employer is doing all the right things, including potentially conducting regular stay interviews, turnover still occurs. This is where the exit interview comes in.

“Exit interviews are a great resource for employers to receive honest insight into why an employee is leaving and if there is anything that can/should be done differently to prevent others from leaving for the same reason,” said Tarnacki.

“Questions employers should consider asking during these exit meetings include: What could we do to make this position better? What should your manager do differently? What could we have done earlier, if anything, to convince you to stay?”

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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