Are you conducting Stay Interviews? Correctly done – a highly effective way to retain your top talent

Kevin Hosier

Two people with their hands around coffee cups

According to a recent CIPD report, 33% of employers report that it has become more difficult to retain staff over the last 12 months.

Whilst it may seem counter-intuitive for a talent acquisition specialist to be commenting on the most effective way to keep hold of key staff, we see our role as recruitment partners as much more than search and selection. We expect and hope that our candidates will build long careers with our clients – and the stay interview is a highly effective tool to help employers drive employee commitment and loyalty.


What is a stay interview?

It isn’t an appraisal and should be kept completely separate from any performance review. That’s the first and most important distinction. Appraisals measure performance against a pre-agreed set of criteria whereas the stay interview is a barometer to help assess your employee’s experience of working both in their current role and for you and your company. It’s likely to be much more subjective.  Think of it as being the opposite of an exit interview – instead of asking, “Why are you leaving,” you’re effectively asking, “Why are you staying?”

What are the benefits?

Conducted correctly, the stay interview is valuable because it provides managers with the insights they need to motivate a particular employee. Perhaps we too often see motivation in black and white terms and assume that, for example, every sales person will be motivated by earning more commission. But often, it’s a much more complex picture, and only by taking time to properly ask the right questions – and understand the responses – can we assess the right management and motivational approach for each individual. Stay interviews can help build trust and give the employee the opportunity for input and feedback in a non-pressurised environment. If you then follow up by acting sincerely on the feedback given, the stay interview is a great opportunity for you to demonstrate to employees that their input is valuable – and that they are listened to.A single-line drawing of two women sitting and having a discussion during a stay interview while drinking coffeeHow do you conduct a Stay Interview?

“Don’t over-complicate things,” says Ben Whitter, founder and CEO of the World Employee Experience Institute. “The biggest question you can ask an employee during a stay interview is – why do you stay?” The implication is that the more you can encourage the employee to open up and lead the conversation, the better. Open questions are likely to be more informative than closed, so instead of asking, “Do you find your current role satisfying,” ask, “If you could change one thing about your job to make it more satisfying, what would it be?” Identify areas that you would like to assess and create a series of open questions around them. These might cover:

•  Motivations (perhaps aside from money and promotion)

•  The sort of challenges they look forward to in their role

•  What they would miss about their current role if moved into a completely different position

•  Areas of the business they would like to learn more about/have more exposure to

Then just sit and listen – and take copious notes.


Stay Interview – Some Tips

Wait to interview new hires until they’ve had some time to get to know the job – but you need to get the timing right. A common reason for leaving a role in the early days that we hear as recruiters is “the job was mis-sold to me,” “the job is not how my boss described it would be” or “the role is not what I was expecting.” As an employer, you may be in a position to do something about this – but only if you know there’s a problem. So, don’t wait too long to ask for the first time.

Let employees know well in advance what you are aiming to achieve in the interviews. If the interview is a surprise, or the employee hasn’t had sufficient time to think about what they would like to say, chances are the information you glean will not be that valuable.

Finally – and perhaps most importantly – be sure that you have the processes in place to act on what you learn. You can be 100% certain that not acting on what you find out during the stay interview will have exactly the opposite effect of what you intended. Ensure that communication lines are well and truly open and that employees know they have been heard.


Article written by Kevin Hosier, Co-Director of GCN Talent

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Employee retention

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I had the pleasure of speaking with GCN Talent when I needed someone who really understood where I was at that time. Unlike other recruiters I have encountered, GCN Talent really took the time to understand what I needed, why I needed it and what was important to me. I would happily recommend GCN Talent to anyone looking for the right move.

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The Hive

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