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About Conducting Employee Stay Interviews

Sure, exit interviews are helpful. But talking to employees after they've made the decision to leave is of limited use. By the time an exit interview reveals an issue, it's too late to correct it. Have you ever thought to yourself, “If only I had known — I could've done something before it was too late!”

Well, smart managers avoid this situation by routinely asking their employees how they're doing, why they're staying, and how they might be further engaged.

You can even take things one step further and conduct stay interviews, in which a manager asks an employee specific questions relating to the employee's position, company, or level of engagement. Stay interviews enable managers to pinpoint issues before an employee decides to leave. Enlightened managers make it a point to conduct stay interviews to stave off resignations down the road.

Don't couple a stay interview with the performance appraisal process. Although some firms weave stay interview questions into performance appraisals for the sake of convenience, you're better off separating these processes, because they serve very different purposes. You may want to conduct stay interviews every year around an employee's anniversary date — perhaps over lunch.

Who to interview and who should do the asking

Conducting stay interviews with the top performers at your firm is particularly important. What drives these people to go above and beyond? This helps you not only to keep these top performers engaged, but also to pinpoint what traits and values these superstars share. This information can be helpful in lots of ways — for example, as you interview new hires.

That being said, you shouldn't interview only top performers. You should conduct stay interviews with all your employees to avoid claims of favoritism or discrimination.

Don't outsource this task to HR, your boss, or another member of your team, and be sure to do it in person (as opposed to via e-mail). Your goal is, in part, to show your employees that you — yes, you — care about their well-being.

What to ask in a stay interview

Use a consistent set of questions in all your stay interviews so that you get the same information from each of your employees. The following questions can help you make the most of a stay interview:

  • What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning?

  • What about your job makes you hit the snooze button?

  • What aspects of your job do you like the most?

  • What aspects of your job do you like the least?

  • What would make you leave this company for another job?

  • Do you get enough recognition?

  • What kind of recognition would be meaningful for you?

  • Does this company allow you to reach your maximum potential?

  • How can the company help you be more successful in your job?

  • What three things could the company change that would help you realize your potential?

  • If you were to win the lottery and resign, what would you miss the most?

  • What would be the one thing that, if it changed in your current role, would make you consider moving on?

  • What is something new that you'd like to learn this year?

Take a genuine interest in asking these questions. Any hint that you're just following a company form or checking off boxes will result in a lost opportunity.

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