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The Stay Interview [ Part Two ]

December 9, 2015


December 9, 2015

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We took your questions and suggestions (we tried to get to them all) and created a part 2 to our previous stay interview post.  Enjoy. 5 More Things To Consider When Designing A Stay Interview Strategy. The stay interview can be an effective strategy for employee retention. However, its effectiveness depends on how it is carried out. When expertly executed, the stay interview can enable an HR to preempt employees’ decisions to quit, and implement interventions which can enable them to remain within an organization. stay-interview-new However when carried out sloppily, the stay interview can actually become a liability. At best, it can fail to produce actionable info on which HR decisions can be based. In such a scenario, it turns out to be a waste of time and efforts. At worst, the stay interview can produce inaccurate information. Any decision based on such inaccurate info can ultimately backfire. To prevent stay interviews from becoming a liability, they have to be carried out within a well-thought out strategy. The ultimate question is: how can an HR design such a strategy? Well, although there isn’t a step-by-step guideline to creating such a strategy, there are certain elements which a complete strategy should have. When designing a stay interview strategy, the following are the 5 key things to consider.

1. Who Gets Interviewed

In an ideal world, a stay interview would be conducted on every employee. However, unless an organization has few employees, this is impossible. As such, the interview has to be carried out on high valued employees. The definition of “high valued” will differ from one organization to another. Even then, every HR or manager definitely knows who their high valued employees are. The stay interview is usually aimed at enabling an organization to retain such employees. Therefore, the first step in designing an interview strategy is in deciding who will be interviewed. It is important to set a clear set of criteria which will be used to select employees to be interviewed. Such criteria will make the selection process simpler.

2. Who Is The Interviewer

The standard recommendation is that a stay interview can be conducted by an employee’s direct manager or another manager within the organization. This is mostly true on paper. In actual sense, deciding who should conduct the interview isn’t quite straightforward. At a minimum, the interviewer should have two qualities. First of all, they should have excellent interviewing skills. An unskilled interviewer can fail to unearth critical information which is essential for making sound HR decisions. Secondly (and most importantly), the interviewer must have a good relationship with the employee. At a minimum, the employee should feel comfortable enough to speak their mind to the interviewer. Otherwise, if the employee isn’t comfortable speaking up, the stay will be largely a waste of time. In some cases, it actually makes sense to bring in an outsider to conduct the stay interview. This is because such an outsider can be vetted to ensure that they have the right interview skills. Secondly, most employees are much more comfortable speaking to outsiders – especially if they have critical comments about the organization. Finally, outsiders are likely to be more open-minded and unbiased. Company insiders (e.g. managers) can easily become defensive especially when an employee makes critical statements about management. Such a vested interest can reduce the likelihood of collecting objective information from the interview. The bottom line is that finding the right interviewer is critical to the overall success of the stay interview. If such an interviewer cannot be found within the company, then it is more effective to bring in an external consultant to conduct the interviews.

3. The Timing And Frequency Of The Interviews

There two approaches to scheduling stay interviews. The first is by scheduling them periodically. For instance, the interviews can be scheduled on an annual or bi-annual basis. The second is by scheduling them intermittently – whenever need arises. Each option has its own advantages. Periodic scheduling is great for planning purposes. When the interviews are scheduled months in advance, they are easy to plan for. Periodic scheduling also ensures that stay interviews are conducted. This is because the interviews are included on the organizational calendar. Intermittent scheduling enables stay interviews to be used to respond to specific events or realities within the organization. For instance, if a top talent has just rejected an offer to join a rival, that is the perfect time to conduct a stay interview. In such a scenario, intermittent scheduling comes in handy. Basically, when creating a stay interview strategy, it is important to determine scheduling of the interviews. In most cases, the best approach is to use a combination of periodic and intermittent scheduling.

4. What To Cover During The Interviews

This is perhaps the most important aspect of the stay interviews. It is what determines whether or not the interviews unearth helpful information. There are two approaches to determining what to address during stay interviews. The first approach is by outlining the major topic areas to cover during the interview. Common stay interview topic areas include career needs, barriers to job satisfaction, issues with supervisors, concerns about recent organizational changes, intent to stay, relationships with co-workers, compliance issues and aspects of pay or remuneration. Using this approach, the interviewer is given a guide on the topic areas to cover. They then figure out how to phrase the questions in a conversational manner. This approach offers more flexibility. However, its success relies solely on the interviewer’s interview skills. The second approach is by outlining the key questions to ask. In some cases, the questions even have follow-up questions for further probing. For instance, in a presentation entitled “The Stay Interview Quick Start Plan”, HRSoft outlines 5 key stay interview questions. These are:
  1. When you travel to work each day, what things do you look forward to?
  2. What are you learning here?
  3. Why do you stay here?
  4. When was the last time you thought about leaving our team? What prompted it?
  5. What can I do to make your experience at work better for you?
Each of these questions have specific probes. For the first question, there are three follow up questions: What do you like most about working here? What parts are most challenging? What do you like least about working here? Having preset questions can simplify the interview process. This is because questions can provide a clear guideline on the direction the interview should go. However, if poorly executed, having preset questions can make the interview seem like an interrogation. The bottom line is that it is important to determine what should be covered during the interviews. Whether the interview content is based on topics or specific questions will depend on the specific circumstances of an organization.

5. Follow-Up Action

Stay interviews aren’t an end in themselves. They are supposed to be part of a larger employee retention strategy. As such, each interview should have follow-up action. Such action can include analyzing the contents, drawing inferences and creating an employee retention plan based on the interview. Above all, the interview should result in specific actions aimed at retaining the interviewed employees. In a nutshell, those are the 5 key things to consider when designing a stay interview strategy. These considerations increase the likelihood of the interviews yielding positive results. Therefore, if you have been wondering how to begin using stay interviews within you organization, you now know where to begin. Good luck!

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