Stay interviews are a realitively new concept. For years employers have been getting data from workers as they leave the organisation. These “exit interviews” provide excellent insight into why people have chosen to move on. However could you have avoided the resignation in the first place with the right proactive interventions?

That’s where stay interviews come in. The thinking being that if you ask “how are you feeling about your job today?” there’s time to act on the information before it is too late. Proactive rather than reactive.

Doesn’t our engagement survey tell us what we need to know anyway?

There are two potential downsides of engagement surveys:-

  • Firstly they generally provide aggregated data. They tell you, if you like, how the average employee is feeling – be that company wide or by department or location. That may mask how specific individuals are feeling. It could be 90% are happy – but if the 10% who aren’t also happen to be your top performers…
  • They tend to ask very broad questions that may not get to the detailed issues. Surveys have to be relatively short for people to engage with them. Hence surveys like Gallup 12. They do a great job but, unlike an interview, there’s no ability to ask a follow up, or pick up a nuance in an answer.

Our analogy: engagement surveys are like a wide angled lens. Stay interviews are more of a magnifying glass.

So what do I need to consider before introducing stay interviews?

Here’s what Chiumento believes you need to consider before embarking on a stay interview initiative.

1. Who are you going to interview?

Is it every employee or just your most valuable people? Feeling excluded from the process has the potential to make individuals feel unloved. Trying to include everyone could make this unwieldy. In our experience most organisations look to interview perhaps 10% of their people every year. With some bias towards top performers or high potentials.

2. Who is going to do the interviews?

There’s an old saying about people joining organisations and leaving managers. So line managers are never the right choice.

Should it be HR? It could come down to whether they have the capacity and expertise. It also depends to an extent on HR’s reputation for confidentiality and ability to act appropriately with the information they gather. That could vary significantly between organisations

It could be a third party. With the arguument they are independent and won’t be seen as having any “hidden agenda”.

3. How are the interviews structured?

There’s a balance to strike between enough structure to allow you to produce quantative data and the flexibility to “follow the white rabbit”. A skilled i nterviewer actively listens and drills down into the issues raised. They don’t blindly follow a script. They know when to push and where to back off – effectively using the time available to get to the richest seams of information.

Here at Chiumento we use a structured model – based on the same eight themes we use in our exit interview model. Nearly thirty years of experience, talking to thousands of people, have helped us develop a clear picture of why people choose to leave organisations.

4. What promises are you making to interviewees?

A big element in exit interviews is the promise of confidentiality. The reporting is aggregated so no-one knows, with certainty, who said what.

Are you making the same promise with stay interviews? If the goal is to develop tailored retention plans targetted at key individuals you can’t make the same promise. What you can do, is promise to limit who sees the data. Ultimately the employee has to have a say in how the data is used.How you structure that “contract” will be key to employee participation.

5. How are you going to use the insight gained?

The golden rule here is that once you’ve given individuals a voice, you have to demonstrate that you’ve listened. If they raise concerns or give you clear messages about “the price to stay” you have to respond. Even if that’s recognition that what they want isn’t achievable – or is unrealsitic. That can often lead on to a constructive discussion about what is possible.

Where you end up is with clear indicator of what we call “flight risk”. That’s is to say the probability that individual will leave. That informs everything from future recruitment needs to development and succession planning.

In summary

Stay interviews give you the chance to proactively retain your people. They enable you identify “flight risk” and therefore provide the opportunity to manage it.

However you need to go in with your eyes open. That means having clear answers to the five key questions above. We’d be very happy to share our experience and process with you. We can set up a free meeting face-to-face or on-line to chat through your situation, what you want to achieve and our initials ideas. Just get in touch and we’ll get a date in the diary.