As competition for talent heats up, more companies are conducting stay interviews to understand how to retain their valued employees.
But People Operations teams have more to gain from stay interviews than keeping butts in seats. Stay interviews can help identify core business strengths, make decisions about where to invest in employee experience, and refine employer branding for potential new hires.
To understand how to get the most out of stay interviews, we asked two People Operations folks who have implemented these conversations at startups:
The best companies don’t wait until turnover is out of control to start scheduling stay interviews. Instead, conduct them proactively understand what your company is doing right and where to double down for the future.
“For us at The Sill, the goal was to make employees feel heard and understand what they love about our culture,” says Karissa Broderick-Beck. Stay interviews should be used as a platform for employees to share their unique thoughts on their experience at the company.
“Managers should be having organic ‘stay interviews’ with their direct reports all the time,” says Jessica Donahue. Ensure that stay interviews are not an employee’s first (or last) chance to share feedback with leadership.
“When you’re asking folks to contribute to an initiative outside of their normal work, it’s important they know what your end goal is,” says Jessica. Define your desired outcome — not just for leadership, but for employees who may be carrying out and participating in the interviews.
The person conducting the stay interview should look different depending on the culture of your company, says Jessica: “Often HR will lead stay interviews. Other times it makes sense to have these conversations with a manager or team lead.” At The Sill, Karissa and her People team typically facilitate: “Our People team is really embedded into the organization, so it’s not a surprise for these questions to come from us.”
It’s not always possible to conduct stay interviews with all of your employees. Prioritize interviews with employees that have leadership potential and are promotable within the next year: “Who would you be the most disappointed to lose? Interview them and build for them," says Jessica.
“Transparency from the interviewer begets transparency from the interviewee,” says Jessica. If there’s been a wave of recent departures, for example, address it up front to create space for more honest feedback from employees.
Hone in on what excited employees about your company in the first place. “We learned that what motivated our employees to accept their offers are the same things that keep them here today — our growth opportunities, entrepreneurial spirit, and our CEO,” says Karissa.
Jessica suggests that what makes employees want to leave is as important as what is motivating them to stay. She recommends asking employees to walk through a potential departure scenario: “Someone offers you your dream job opportunity tomorrow. What does that look like? It helps companies identify the gaps.”
“If your leadership team isn’t committed to making improvements, then you shouldn’t be asking for feedback,” says Jessica. Once you’ve collected data, test out improvements and measure their impact with engagement or pulse surveys.
Making employees feel heard is great, but showcasing their impact is even better. At a company all-hands, share a recap of the learnings and planned improvements coming out of the stay interviews.
While stay interviews are a tactical method for identifying strengths and weaknesses at your company, they’re also an opportunity for employees to be active participants in building company culture.
Giving employees a platform to voice their opinions is key to building a culture that people are excited about joining — and staying at.