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How to prevent exit interviews with stay interviews

Posted by Neha De

June 12, 2023

When employees leave a company, a common practice is to conduct an exit interview to formally terminate the employment relationship, complete administrative formalities, gather company materials, as well as collect feedback and insights from them for the purpose of reducing future turnover. However, at this point, the turnover of at least one worker has already happened, suggesting that this intervention has come too late in the process.

Employee turnover can be an expensive problem for businesses. A study by the Society for Human Resource Management reveals, “Employers will need to spend the equivalent of six to nine months of an employee’s salary in order to find and train their replacement. That means an employee salaried at $60,000 will cost the company anywhere from $30,000 to $45,000 to hire and train a replacement.” Not just this, high employee turnover can disrupt morale, productivity and even customer service.

One upcoming practice in human resource management is the stay interview, which can be described as a regular and intentional discourse between a manager and his or her direct report (typically, initiated by the former) and held with the purpose of building a transparent relationship regarding the latter’s intention to stay with the organization.

Conducted with staff members who are not planning to exit the firm, a stay interview offers the chance to gather feedback from workers about their current job satisfaction level and their views on how the organization can improve.

By conducting stay interviews, organizations can find out potential issues before they turn into major ones. This can possibly help them reduce employee turnover and save money.


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A stay interview is different from an exit interview

An exit interview is typically conducted by the HR department on a worker’s last working day where the employee explains why he or she has decided to leave the company. Essentially, it is a way of learning why things did not work out for the particular employee.

An exit interview is supposed to offer functional data to the HR department as well as management about not just employee satisfaction but also about how the company can improve worker engagement and morale. The problem with this approach is that even if certain actions are taken to remedy those issues, it comes at the cost of losing an employee, which can be costly and disruptive to the business.

A stay interview, on the other hand, is a proactive dialogue that can help identify potential problems and address them before they become glaring enough to cause an employee to leave. By conducting stay interviews, businesses can enhance employee retention rates and build a more engaged and content workforce.

According to Richard P. Finnegan, author of The Power of Stay Interviews for Engagement and Retention, “The Stay Interview: an easy-to-use tool to uncover, anticipate, and resolve issues and concerns before your best employees leave. Stay Interviews do three things that employee surveys do not: they deliver information that can be used today; they give practical insights for engaging and retaining top performers; and they provide managers with a reliable process for developing individual stay plans.”

Advantages of conducting stay interviews

Check out these six main benefits of using stay interviews for retaining top employees:

  1. Improved employee engagement and experience – Stay interviews demonstrate to the employees that their perspectives and opinions matter, which can enhance their motivation and engagement. These interviews can also help pinpoint opportunities for learning and development, refine work-life balance, and address other aspects that lead to job satisfaction. All of these factors combined can improve retention and productivity.
  2. Strengthened employee motivation – Stay interviews help supervisors understand what motivates their team members to stay in their current role. Insights into what workers value most can help managers to identify areas where the company can improve to retain top talent.
  3. Increased retention – Organizations can retain their top talent by identifying and resolving potential issues with stay interviews.
  4. Enhanced productivity – Keeping employees engaged and motivated can help organizations improve employee engagement. Stay interviews can help identify ways to do that.
  5. Identification of potential problems – An employee stay interview can identify potential issues that may be causing them to consider leaving. Managing these issues proactively can improve employee satisfaction and retention.
  6. Positive impact on company culture – Stay interviews can help develop a culture of transparency, openness, and communication, which can have a positive impact on the overall work environment. These interviews show workers that managers value their opinions and perspectives, which can strengthen employee motivation and engagement.

Research confirms it, too

A study was conducted by Pepperdine University to examine “the use of stay interviews for retaining key employees from the perspective of managers.” Nine managers who manage key talent were interviewed about what measures they currently take to retain top talent and what they think about using stay interviews to increase the retention of key employees.

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On being asked to identify the potential effects of stay interviews, the majority of participants considered usage of stay interviews to be a valuable approach that aligns with the organization’s current performance management process. They also said that stay interviews helps “build stronger supervisor-subordinate relationships.”

One participant shared, “The stay interview is a great concept, something we all should use to approach our key talents. This process will enable employees to open up and get to hear level of information otherwise people may not share with managers.”

Another participant shared, “Most important role as manager is to engage employees, make them feel like they can trust me. The stay interview process will foster this type of dialogue and engagement.”

How you can conduct stay interviews to increase employee retention

Stay interviews can help companies improve employee retention by identifying and talking about potential problems before workers decide to quit. These interviews can also help managers understand what motivates employees to stay in their current jobs and what issues might make them think about leaving.

Stay interviews can be held in several formats: surveys, one-on-one dialogues, or focus groups. The ultimate goal is to collect feedback from workers about their engagement, job satisfaction, and overall experience working for the firm.

Organizations can gain valuable insight into what their workers value and what might be causing dissatisfaction or disengagement through stay interviews. They can then take actions based on feedback received as a means of addressing these issues and improving employee relations.

Here is a seven-step strategy for successfully conducting a stay interview:

Step 1: Begin with a clear, concise plan – Before starting a stay interview, managers need to have a clear plan in place. This plan should touch upon the goals of the stay interview, the questions to ask, as well as the procedure for conducting them. Companies should also train managers on how to conduct stay interviews effectively.

Step 2: Schedule stay interviews periodically – Stay interviews should be conducted at regular intervals, typically once a year, or more routinely for workers who managers consider may be about to quit. Depending on the employer and employee preferences, these interviews can take place in person or virtually.

Step 3: Ask questions that are open ended – During the stay interview, employers should ask open-ended questions that motivate team members to share their thoughts and feelings about their work and overall environment. Some potential questions that you can ask during a stay interview are:

– What influences your decision to come to work every day?

– What do you enjoy most about work?

– What are some of the challenges you face at work?

– Do you feel valued and valued by your supervisor as well as colleagues?

– What improvements would you like to see in your job responsibilities or work environment?

Step 4: Listen sincerely – Employers should listen actively to the feedback provided by their employees, take diligent notes, and ask follow-up questions to spell out their understanding of the employees’ concerns. They should stay focused on the employee’s perspective and avoid interrupting them.

Step 5: Act positively on feedback received – After the stay interview, it is important for supervisors to act on the feedback they receive. If a worker raises a concern or issue, the team leader should initiate steps to address it at the earliest possible. By showing that they are willing to listen and act, managers can build trust with their staff members and create a more encouraging work environment.

Step 6: Track progress – Businesses should also track the progress of their stay interviews over time to establish their effectiveness. This can be done by monitoring employee satisfaction surveys, employee retention rates, and other metrics.

Step 7: Follow up – It is important for managers to follow up with employees after the stay interview to ensure that their feedback has been heard and that any identified issues are being addressed.

Build a satisfied workforce by using stay interviews

Stay interviews can be a powerful tool for increasing retention, creating a positive work environment and preventing the need for exit interviews. By conducting consistent, proactive discussions with employees, organizations can pinpoint potential issues and address them before they become significant enough to cause employees to leave. By conducting stay interviews, businesses can create a more engaged and satisfied workforce, and ultimately achieve greater success.


Want more? In addition to HR, benefits, recruiting and payroll through its PeopleOps, Escalon’s Essential Business Services include FinOps (CFO services, taxes, bookkeeping and accounting) and Risk (business insurance). Talk to an expert today.

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This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. Escalon and its affiliates are not providing tax, legal or accounting advice in this article. If you would like to engage with Escalon, please contact us here.


Neha De
Neha De

Neha De is a writer and editor with more than 13 years of experience. She has worked on a variety of genres and platforms, including books, magazine articles, blog posts and website copy. She is passionate about producing clear and concise content that is engaging and informative. In her spare time, Neha enjoys dancing, running and spending time with her family.

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