When you’ve invested time and resources into an employee, you probably want to keep them on board. So waiting until they decide to leave to ask about their work experience is too late to make changes. With stay interviews, you can learn now what keeps people happy at work — and how you can help them grow within your organization. 

Purposeful conversations

You already know about exit interviews, but what is a stay interview? This is when management meets with an employee to discuss what the latter enjoys about their job and what goals they have. Are they encouraged to bring ideas to the table? Is their team a good fit? Do they want to try something new? Stay interviews can be held periodically to keep you apprised of what employees need and want both now and in the future. 

Building trust

Even when job satisfaction surveys indicate employees are content, it doesn’t tell you what drives the individuals. By talking with each employee, you can get an overall picture of how they feel about your company culture and what it will take to keep them there long term. Consider stay interviews a workforce barometer.

Are you ready?

While stay interviews can be an effective learning tool, they only work if employees feel safe openly sharing their opinions. Does your company foster trust? Does it encourage open communication? If your culture hasn’t reached this point, you may need to work on that first. But if employees will be comfortable speaking up, you’re ready to begin.

Are they ready?

There may be some hesitation to be open and honest during a stay interview, especially when you first introduce the idea. Assure your employees that this is not a performance evaluation, and their input will in no way negatively affect their job — and mean it. The interviews will be most productive if everyone feels prepared and at ease, so plan ahead.

  • Choose a comfortable meeting space — a neutral conference room is much less intimidating than a manager’s office
  • Schedule the interview, allowing employees time to gather their thoughts
  • Reiterate the purpose of the interview
  • Prepare thought-provoking questions — yes and no answers won’t tell you much

Conducting the interview

Stay interview questions should focus on how employees feel about their position and the culture at work. Be receptive to feedback — remember, you asked for it. 

Intentional questions

Begin your conversation by expressing your appreciation for the employee’s contributions to the company. You might also explain that while not every idea may be implemented, you want to make positive changes. Then ask questions about their experiences.

  • What would you like to do more/less of at work?
  • What helps you do your best work?
  • What part of your job would you like to change?
  • What concerns do you have with your current team?
  • How can we help you feel more empowered at work?
  • How can we help you reach career goals?
  • What would provoke you to leave?

Follow up

It takes courage to tell the boss what you think. If you become defensive or ignore their feelings, you’ll not only create mistrust, but also miss an opportunity to build rapport. In addition, once you learn what people are really thinking — and want — it’s vital to be accountable. Use the responses to make needed changes and squelch problems before they become bonfires. 

At the conclusion of the interview, recap what you’ve heard and suggest what they may expect to happen next. Stay interviews might lead to new assignments or an increase in well-liked activities.

  • “Jim is hard to get along with.” Time for a new desk arrangement? 
  • “I don’t feel productive working on this team.” Rethink your management style.
  • “I love this company, but I’m bored with my current position.” Offer a different role or responsibilities, or find a place in a new department altogether.
  • “I feel more connected to my co-workers when we eat lunch together.” Perhaps your budget doesn’t provide for meals, but you could designate Tuesday as Linger Over Lunch Day.

As you hold these conversations and follow through, you’ll build relationships and trust that are crucial for building — and retaining — a satisfied workforce. Find more ideas for helping your employees feel valued on KSL Jobs Resources.