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Stay Interviews vs Exit Interviews


Exit interviews can rapidly devolve into something similar to a post-breakup inquisition. The disillusioned employee provides an autopsy of their disillusionment before a chastened ex-manager. Why not conduct ‘stay interviews’ to gauge and, if necessary, mend the attitudes of still-engaged employees?

The best way to attack workplace issues and high employee turnover is by conducting annual stay interviews with all employees (including managers). A stay interview is similar to an exit interview. The key difference is that stay interviews are done when it really makes a difference to the individual’s needs.

A stay interview consists of the Managing Director or CEO, or an external third party, sitting down with an individual employee to go through a bunch of questions that are directed at extracting the truth, the real reasons why they’ve felt unhappy in their job at any time.

Some example stay interview questions are:

  • What makes your work day a great day?
  • What do you like about your work?
  • What do you want to learn this year?
  • Is there anything you’d like to change about your job?
  • Is there anything you’d like to change about your team or department?
  • Are your talents being used well?
  • What would make your job more satisfying and rewarding?
  • Do you feel supported in your career goals?
  • Do you feel we recognise you? What kind of recognition do you like?
  • Is there anything else we can do to keep you here?

There are hundreds more questions you could ask, but you should choose only the ones that are suitable for your situation, or you’ll be there all day.

Stay interviews can change an employee’s decision to quit their job. An employee might not be telling the full story until someone sits down with them in a one-on-one interview to hear the real truth about why they’re not happy.

The outcomes of the stay interviews can then be used to fix or help to fix any issues before they become unmanageable. This is not only good for the individual but good for the business by showing a pro-active approach to employee’s needs. Whilst you can’t make everyone happy, there’s plenty of ways to make a difference using stay interviews.

Stay interviews can also be used as a means of attracting new employees by making the statement ‘we really do care about our employees’. It’s proven that the majority of employees would rather have their workplace issues fixed or regular recognition for their efforts, in place of a pay-rise.

Stay interviews can also be used to gather insights and ideas about the business from the people who are in it every day. You can then use that information to create an employee manual. Employee manuals are a great supplement to workplace training – ask a new employee take it home and read it to get a better knowledge of the business and general procedures before heading beginning their position.

However, don’t turn your stay interviews into an information gathering session. Just add one or two questions about new ideas, otherwise the stay interview will become more about the employer and less about the employee.

If your organisation conducts exit interviews and has high employee turnover, consider changing to stay interviews. Your employees (and accountant) will thank you.

Paul Groth is a marketing strategist, entrepreneur, and founder of www.marketingmixer.com.au. He is a strong believer in unconventional marketing using tactics such as persuasion, emotion, controversial content and getting the most bang for your buck using low-cost marketing methods. Follow Paul on twitter @paulMrG