Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
If you haven’t seen them, there are a couple of good articles over on The Workforce Institute website about stay interviews. Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP wrote a piece on “Why Stay Interviews are the Best-Kept Secret to Retention” and several board members – including yours truly – weighed in on “The Best Questions to Ask in a Stay Interview”.
Stay interviews are a hot topic right now because organizations are still experiencing high levels of employee turnover. A McKinsey article reports that the voluntary quit rate is 25% higher than pre-pandemic levels. And turnover is expensive. While the actual cost is going to vary by industry and position, it’s safe to say the numbers are in the thousands. So, after spending company resources to find and hire an employee, organizations really don’t want them to leave.
Stay interviews can help organizations identify the issues that might be causing employees to start looking elsewhere. As a quick reminder, a stay interview is a conversation with an employee about what makes them “stay” with the company. This is valuable feedback information for a couple of reasons.
RECRUITMENT: Stay interviews can help organizations identify those things that employees love about working for the company. The recruiting team will want to make sure that candidates know what employees enjoy about their experience.
ENGAGEMENT: Organizations should know what employees love about their working experience. Sad to say, I’ve seen companies make changes to benefits, working conditions, policies, etc. without realizing that employees would be very unhappy with the proposed change. I’m not saying that companies shouldn’t make changes, but when you know there could be a backlash, you’re able to deal with it upfront.
I recently discovered a book that might help organizations manage their stay interview process better. “The Power of Stay Interviews” by Richard Finnegan is the “all things stay interview” book you need on your bookshelf.
While the book covers an introduction to stay interviews and offers some stay interview sample questions, I thought the value of the book was in the section that outlined how to align stay interview responses with exit interviews and engagement surveys.
We’ve talked before about the need to have a holistic employee survey strategy and here’s a great example of why. Organizations want these three activities: employee engagement surveys, stay interviews, and exit interviews to provide actionable data and insights. We want employees to complete these surveys and be honest in their responses. Survey fatigue and psychological safety could limit participation and comments. And that doesn’t give the organization the information they need to make good decisions.
Stay interviews have the potential to help organizations make good decisions about the employee experience. Like other business activities, there are three components to success: 1) construct the activity well, 2) execute the activity well, and 3) interpret and act on the results. Many of the articles we’re seeing about stay interviews cover points one and two. Finnegan’s book includes the third point, which I think is what sets it apart.
One of the biggest mistakes that companies can make is asking employees for feedback and not doing anything with it. Even if the answer is, “Hmm…we can’t do that now, but maybe in the future.” Stay interviews are a feedback activity that organizations don’t want to mess up.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Washington, DC21