Talent Management

4 Stay Interview Formats You Really Should Consider

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Last of three parts

Note: In case you missed them, the first two parts are The Many Benefits That Come From “Stay” Interviews and 20 Possible Questions You Should Consider Asking

If you know why an individual employee stays, you can obviously reinforce those factors.

And if you know far enough in advance what factors might cause them to leave, you can get a head start in ensuring those turnover causes never occur.

If you have decided to try these stay interviews, here are four “why-do-you-stay?” formats to consider using depending on your situation.

4 formats to consider

These formats include:

  1. A one-on-one interview with their manager – Have their manager ask the targeted employee questions during a face-to-face interview. Getting managers to talk to their own employees is such a powerful tool, this format beats the other options hands down. Skype and telephone interviews are also acceptable as close alternatives.
  2. A one-on-one interview with HR – In cases where the employee’s manager may be reluctant or where they may themselves be part of the problem, an HR professional can be assigned to conduct the interview. Because they are experienced interviewers, in some cases, the results can actually be more accurate and insightful.
  3. Questionnaires/ Surveys provided to current employees – Providing a sample of the currently targeted employees with an electronic survey or questionnaire that asks the same questions in item No. 1 above is an acceptable option. This approach may actually be required for remotely located or shift employees.
  4. A focus group covering a small group of employees – In this format, you ask a group of targeted employees in the same job family why they stay and what might cause them to leave. Remember not to over generalize with group wide stay or turnover factors.

Additional stay interview issues and actions 

This section contains additional elements, issues, and key questions.

  • When to approach the employee – Stay interviews should be scheduled periodically — usually once a year during a slack business period. It’s usually a good idea to interview all key employees around the same time, so that you can implement common actions at the same time. Conducting them less frequently than every two years can be problematic in periods of high turnover. For new hires who naturally have a higher risk of leaving, conduct stay interviews at four and eight months.
  • Handling possible resistance – If an individual employee has never participated in a stay interview, you should expect some level of anxiety and even resistance simply because they’re not accustomed to talking about their own motivators and frustrations. Typical issues that you might encounter include: concern that you are questioning their loyalty or commitment, being uncomfortable discussing their personal feelings, not having sufficient time to prepare for the discussion, and the fact that the manager doing the interview may be a primary contributor to their frustrations.
  • Who to select for stay interviews – Don’t cover every employee; prioritize your employees based on your estimate of the negative dollar business impact if they left and the probability that they might actually leave within the next 12 months.
  • What if the identified issues are irresolvable? — In a small percentage of cases, these interviews will bring up some major problems and issues that can’t simply be easily resolved by their manager. In those cases, HR should be consulted but if the issue cannot be resolved, a longer-term “replacement plan” as well as a shorter term “backfill plan” will be needed in case the interview actually triggers the employee to leave.
  • Develop a stay interview tool kit — HR must accept responsibility for developing an effective stay interview approach that all managers can follow. Use the toolkit format because it gives managers choices, so that they can customize the approach to their own situation. The toolkit should include dos and don’ts, frequently asked questions and answers, a directory of help services, a list of possible “stay questions” to ask the employee, and most importantly, a list of acceptable retention actions that are available to any manager for improving an employee’s job and for minimizing possible retention triggers.
  • Consider related retention actions – Most organizations that find stay interviews to be highly impactful should also consider implementing post-exit interviews. Post exit interviews occur months after an employee has left. These delayed interviews often reveal the “real underlying reasons” why key people left. Re-recruiting is another tool that should also be considered. Recruiting is where key employees are approached periodically with the goal of completely restructuring their job, so that it becomes at least as exciting as any job that an external recruiter might be able to offer them.

Final thoughts

The concept of “stay interviews” is simple. You must periodically work with key employees to increase the number of reasons why they stay and to minimize anything that frustrates them and that may act to trigger their departure.

If you are a manager and you think that these interviews may be unnecessary, and if you expect to win “The War To Keep Your Employees,” you must forever bury the notion that the best employees will “naturally” stay at your firm without you having to periodically take major actions.

Employee retention is growing as an issue because we live in a world where the minute after a manager does something to anger or frustrate an employee, the employee can react negatively by instantly applying for a new job by simply pushing a single button on their smart phone. This “stay interview” approach is a combination of customer relationship management and market research approaches. And by using it, HR can move retention closer to becoming a more data-driven function.

The stay interview has proven to be easy to learn and highly effective, almost any manager can dramatically reduce their turnover rate and save hundreds of thousands of dollars by implementing this simple and inexpensive tool.

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader who specializes in bold and high business impact and strategic Talent Management solutions for large corporations. A prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of Talent Management, he has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops and he has been featured in over 35 videos. In addition, Dr. Sullivan is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 organizations in 30 countries. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, and others. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring,” Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industries most respected strategists.” He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked #8 among the top 25 online influencers in Talent Management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and was CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, CA. Since 1982, he has also been a Professor of Management at San Francisco State University. His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on www.ERE.Net.
  • http://www.paperclipsandpolicies.com/ Erin Amdor

    This is a really interesting topic. I especially like the idea of a stay interview toolkit. It is so important that managers stay connected to their employees.

  • flavvius

    The smart employee will never speak honestly with HR, as it is never in her best interest. HR’s two primary motivators are protecting the company and justifying its own existance with much recruitment.