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IMA Human Resources Blog

Retaining Talent and Building “A Great Place to Work”: Using the Stay Interview for Retention and Culture Development

by Stephen Schiera and Ashley Beaudoin

IMEC is an IMA B2B Partner

As companies are fighting for talent in a tight labor market there is a need for them to look at how they are retaining their best people and developing a culture that others want to join.  Too many times managers are focused on the negative aspects of managing people and do not take the time to develop the talent that’s right in front of them.

By creating a workforce of engaged employees that are motivated, committed and focused on doing the job right you will naturally drive the positive, measurable results to your bottom line, while retaining key employees.  A key step to employee engagement is to gather feedback, improving understanding of employee behavior, needs, challenges and opportunities.

Today, departing employees are asked their opinions and experiences on their way out the door. These “exit” interviews can reveal some information about why people are leaving, however, the interviews are typically guarded and are certainly too late to affect retention. Instead, the “stay” interview is targeted at retention, exactly as its name implies. These simple conversations take the pulse of employees’ current experiences, attitudes and opinions in a more routine cadence, enabling leadership to implement improvements before they have lost a valuable asset.

As part of a talent management suite the stay interview can be a very powerful addition to an organization’s HR toolbox.  Stay interviews provide the organization a chance to get ahead of the turnover curve and uncover the issues that may drive an employee to leave.

There are two main purposes to the stay interview. First, for the sake of retention, the company needs to know what it is doing right. Second, for the sake of prevention, the organization must learn why an employee is looking to leave. Sample questions might include “What do you like best about working here?” or “What frustrates you the most about your role?”

The interviews are conducted one-on-one and should only require about a half an hour of the staff’s time. In an effective stay interview managers ask structured, open-ended questions in a casual and conversational manner. Experts recommend holding all of the interviews within a small time window rather than spread out throughout the year.

It’s also suggested to repeat the process annually. As with all such efforts, management must take the lead and act upon the information they receive. If they don’t act they will certainly see no change, but could further harm an already poor culture. As a caution, the stay interview is not a replacement for frequent feedback and coaching, but a complement to these activities.

In organizations that demonstrate a high performance culture, the stay interview is an excellent companion to new or existing efforts including understanding the voice of employees through a routine employee engagement survey or structured leadership development and professional development training plans. Any organization focused on the attraction and retention of top notch talent should consider the benefits – reduced turnover and an improvement in workplace culture, and ultimately, an improvement to the bottom line.

What can success of an engaged workforce offer internal personnel?

  • Increased Performance: Employees who are highly engaged report a 21% increase in their performance.
  • Motivated Employees: A total of 78% of employees who are recognized for their work report being more motivated.
  • Reduced Turnover: There is a 14.9% lower turnover rate for companies who provide employees with continuous feedback.

Drive growth to benefit clients, employees, and the overall organization by focusing on what matters most to the workforce. Be committed to focusing on properly measuring engagement to see what is driving the workforce. Doing so will allow prioritization of various topics such as additional training, employee development options, and feedback.

This article has been adapted by the authors for use by the IMA. For more information, click here.