Promoting Engagement with the use of the Stay Interview

February 22, 2012

The phenomenon surrounding employee engagement in organizations is one that has generated considerable buzz amidst managers and human resources specialists alike. That being said, very few HR professionals are familiar with the concept of the stay interview, a tool with the potential to effectively help nurture engagement among employees. This short article will present the concept itself, as well as provide you with an idea as to how you might look at applying it within your organization in order to reap its inherent benefits.

First off, it is very important to establish the distinction between the stay interview and the more commonly known exit interview. The stay interview entails gathering information pertaining to the factors and reasons behind an employee’s desire to stay with an organization. On the other hand, the exit interview consists of gathering information relevant to the employee’s decision to leave the organization. These two distinct methods have two very different objectives; the first is a useful tool that can help management guide employees throughout the organization with more ease while the other is aimed at improving the organization from a more general perspective.

The stay interview should be considered for the potential is has to gather information that provides managers with a valuable basis for motivating and engaging their workforce. It also helps favour employees’ professional development and can ultimately help retain qualified employees. In order to do so, stay interviews should be conducted by managers themselves, in person, on a one-on-one basis. As the emphasis is really placed on the individual in the case of this method, it is particularly important to meet directly with each employee in a context where the term ‘’interview’’ resembles much more of a discussion. Following the interview, the manager will want to take it upon himself to forward any relevant information to HR seeing as they can utilize this valuable source of organizational intelligence in an effort to increase engagement and employee satisfaction.

In an ideal world, managers would conduct a stay interview with each employee on an annual basis. This is actually more important in the case of organizations facing a shortage of qualified personnel and in instances where the concerned employees have been identified as ‘rising stars’ within the organization. In light of the ‘talent war’ era, organizations cannot afford to lose quality employees. Additionally, it can be interesting to plan these interviews according to the normal turnover cycle. For example, if employees tend to quit a specific job after six months on average, managers should meet people in this position as early as the third month.

When it comes to the stay interview, HR specialists are required to take on the role of a trainer. In effect, these professionals are in the best position to provide managers with the necessary training in areas such as interviewing best practices and can help them determine the questions that should be asked in order to collect only the most valuable information. One might consider asking such questions as: ‘’How can I support you more adequately?’’, ‘’What skills do you wish to develop or learn here?’’, ‘’What makes you excited about coming to work each day?’’, etc.

Of course, the stay interview will prove to be more beneficial if managers and HR specialists ensure that a follow up is undertaken with respect to the information that each employee has provided. That being said, the collected information can in itself help assess the effectiveness of the interview process as well as of other methods that are mobilized in an effort to nurture engagement internally.

All in all, the concept of the stay interview does not guarantee that your most performing employees will stay with your organization eternally; however, it can very well help identify those factors that are important to your best employees. Furthermore, it can provide managers and HR consultants with the necessary information for implementing a more proactive approach to managing turnover, retention, and performance issues. Some food for thought…

[1] Tyler, K. (2011). Who will stay and who wil go? HR Magazine, December, 101-103. Society for Human resource management.

Philippe Longpré, Ph.D. (cdt)

How to keep the best people: