Learning from “Stay Interviews”

I recently read in the Linked In “HR Think Tank” listserv of a concept tentatively called a “stay interview.”  The term is the opposite of an “exit interview” and the goal is retention of employees.  Another name suggested is a “pulse interview.”   Somewhere out there an even better name likely exists.

Typically, climate surveys and the like focus on the problems.  In a stay interview, the focus is on the positive.  The organization learns what it is doing right – information that can be as useful as learning what it’s doing wrong.  This is because understanding and replicating the good things often results in the bad things correcting themselves or getting less focus.  The organizational development process appreciative inquiry builds on this notion. 

How does it work? In one model, someone from HR or  in management (better in many cases) meets 1:1 with the employee informally.  After telling the employee how valued he or she is, a few questions are all that is needed to get the basic information: Why do you stay at x? What about this organization and your job do you like most? What does this organization do that you like? What could it do more of? 

Whoever is conducting the interview should take a few notes, but the goal is to keep it informal and open.  The interviews can be done in small groups as well. 

Who gets a “stay interview”? Different organizations target different sets of employees.  One approach is to do them with “critical” talent, i.e., the star performers and those with high potential.  The idea is that this will help the organization retain its best people.  Other employers target new employees (e.g. less than two years) or those at milestones such as 1, 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, etc. years.  They can be done with any group of employees, e.g., all managers and supervisors.  

It’s also been suggested that these questions  could be asked routinely for all employees as part of the performance review process.  With many organizations short on staff and time, it may even be helpful to ask these questions in a short written survey of all employees or targeted groups.  As I’m sitting here writing, it occurs to me that these questions could even be asked at a staff meeting by supervisors who then communicate the results to upper management. 

Food for thought. Have any of you tried this?     ~Amy Stephson

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