Why The Stay Interview is the New Exit Interview.

Why The Stay Interview is the New Exit Interview

With more and more high-performing talent leaving companies for ‘greener pastures’, HR Departments, CEOs and Team Managers find themselves desperately seeking out sustainable solutions to combating the Great Resignation. The reality these days is that 33% of new employees will leave their job within the first six months, while almost 70 percent will exit within three months! So, what happens to all the time, budget and training spent in that onboarding period – lost!

In 2021, The Great Resignation saw 47% of high-performing employees leaving companies, either to join another or to seek the fertile, fast-growing pastures of digital nomadism. When we consider the gaping wound often imposed by losing key talent, the damage is real. Aside from the obvious persuasion strategies like salary increases (which is a dwindling solution in the year 2022) and implementing more Casual Fridays slash Salad Wednesdays slash Anything-to-Bring-the-Team-Together-Days, retaining high performing talent is rapidly becoming an overwhelming conundrum – and an expensive means to an end. But – there is another way. It’s called the Stay Interview – and its working.

With the proverbial Exit Interview frantically doing its rounds a little more often these days, more companies are cottoning onto the Stay Interview: the Ace of Aces when it comes to retaining your top talent. The Stay Interview is a pin drop along the employee’s journey. It’s an honest, open approach to tapping into all things real, and human. It’s personal and it matters – and it happens a long long way before the Exit Interview.

The Scenario:

Consider Sindiso: your brilliant, right-hand Brand Manager. She’s an A-Type, a high-performer, a go-getter, a dreamboat! Sindiso is not scared to take on tough, meaty challenges and is hungry to drive the business forward and to make her own mark on it, too. She’s ambitious, assertive, strategic, problem-solving and, every day, she shows up, stands up, and goes above and beyond her remit. Sindiso is a model employee, a diamond asset — and you can bet your bottom dollar – you want to keep her happy and thriving.

According to studies, a high performer like Sindiso can deliver as much work as up to four “average” employees and, apart from having a direct impact on performance, has a pivotal knock-on effect of influencing and contributing to your company culture, too. But is money the driver for an A-class individual like Sindiso? Here’s the short answer – no.

High performers – even the lighter weight employees – are needing more: more voice, more time, more trust, more understanding and more one-on-one attention from their Managers. The Stay Interview is the bridge that links ‘the more’ with your ‘retention strategy’. Here, we round up how the Stay Interview works: how to plan it, engage inside it and run it effectively to help you to keep the top talent you value and need.

What is a Stay Interview?

Contrary to popular belief, a Stay Interview isn’t a one-on-one conversation where you attempt to convince a departing employee to stay. Rather, a Stay Interview is an in-person meeting with a high-performing employee in which you attempt to uncover the parts of their role and your company that keep them coming back every day, so as to realise how to retain them long before they even think of leaving.

Unlike an Exit Interview where you ask why an employee is quitting, a Stay Interview focuses on what motivates the employee to show up for their job, what keeps them excited right now, what could be better about their work experience and how they envision the next stage of their career within the company. This gives you, the Manager, the chance to avoid or fix recurring problems, before its too late.

The best Stay Interviews are those that help your most valuable employees understand that:

  • You recognise and appreciate their loyalty.
  • You care about more than just their performance.
  • You’re open to making changes that would bring them more joy.

And the employee helps you discover:

  • Warning signs that indicate your key players need more support or direction.
  • Ways to keep the employees in which you’ve invested the most time and resources.
  • Low-cost changes that could reaffirm your employees’ commitment and engagement.

Nailing The Basics

When planning a Stay Interview, Tower Group recommends you consider these basic tips:

  1. But first, The Manager

Stay interviews should always be led by the employee’s direct manager. Research shows that the top reason employees quit is due to a lack of trust in their manager. A Stay Interview helps to cultivate a relationship founded on trust and open communication.

  1. Go for the intel  

Focus on interviewing your most high-performing employees: those who have been with your company the longest and will help you understand what’s kept them coming back. This has a dual effect of learning what is also enticing for new hires joining the company.

  1. Don’t call it a Stay Interview

Rather than calling it a “Stay Interview,” invite your employee to share their perspective on how things are going at work or in the company. You want to make your employee as comfortable as possible so they’re more inclined to share honest feedback. Step out the office and take them off-site to a favourite coffee shop if you feel it would make them more comfortable; or, at least, give them the choice!

  1. Make it a Pindrop meeting

Aim to conduct your Stay Interviews with high-performing employees every 6 months. This will help you keep an eye on changing attitudes, which may help you intervene more quickly to resolve a rising problem. Schedule them months away from annual performance reviews to keep the goals distinct.

The Caveat?

Of course there is always one. In order for Stay Interviews to be effective and yield honest feedback, employees need to trust management. Stay Interviews only work if honest, two-way communication is a core part of your culture. That said, Stay Interviews can go a long way in developing a culture of authenticity, accountability, diversity, empathy, and agility that will, in turn, work towards creating a company where everyone is motivated, engaged and working towards a common goal.

The Final S(t)ay

When done correctly, stay interviews can have an extremely positive impact on your top talent retention rate. The key is to use the information you collect. Failing to act on what your employees have to say will make you appear disingenuous and cheapen the value of that ‘connection’.  Honour your employees’ honesty by taking the time and making the commitments to make their life and work a better place, and to re-engage and retain them in ways that are a win-win for both of you.