Leaders Consider “Stay” Interviews

At a recent HR conference, I heard former Disney Institute trainer Sherri Merbach share ideas on the value of replacing exit interviews with stay interviews.

Merbach made the case that exit interviews are too late and employees aren’t honest during them. Therefore, exit interviews are close to a waste of time. While I disagree with exit interviews being a waste of time, the case for implementing stay interviews is strong. If you can build relationships with your people over time and make it safe for them to share their answers to the below five questions, you’ll have the information you need to lead.

The five interview questions you need.

Merbach’s current organization, C-Suite Analytics, emphasizes the stay interview. Their principal, Dick Finnegan, wrote a bestselling book on this topic, The Power of Stay Interviews, which you can find here. To learn more, I urge you to check out their resources.

Below are the five questions Merbach shared for executing the stay interview, along with a thought or two from me:

  1. When you travel to work each day, what things do you look forward to? Listen for superficiality versus depth. Notice body language to see if they have an easy time listing things or if it’s hard for them. Within your staff, note common themes. If you don’t hear any common themes, let that alarm you a bit; after all, you have a culture you’re trying to create.
  2. What are you learning here? Stay aware of perceptions of stagnation among people who have worked for you for a while.
  3. Why do you stay here? Follow up this question with something like, “In addition, what is another reason you stay?” Listen for talk about the supervisor and leadership because those are the primary factors that drive retention. If your staff doesn’t mention their boss (without prompting!), that may be a problem area.
  4. When was the last time you thought about leaving our team? What prompted it? Again, listen for mentions of supervisors and leadership. Those factors would be a warning sign.
  5. What can I do to make your experience at work better for you? Consider going down the path of “Stop, Start, Continue.”

Put this practice into action.

Pick an interval–perhaps every two to three months–and run through these questions with people during their one-on-one. Remember, the order of the questions are important as are thoughtful follow-up questions. I encourage taking notes during the conversations.

Then, two additional steps are critical:

  1. You need to ACT on the information you receive.
  2. Don’t disregard the value of an exit interview that follows similar principles.

How Group Dynamic has used these principles.

DeAnne: Even though at Group Dynamic our situations may be different due to the nature of the business and the positions we hold, Alan still incorporates the principles of stay questions into exit interviews. We also perform exit interviews for one of our clients to create an environment of safety and honesty. After all, the purpose of stay interviews and exit interviews are the same: to monitor and improve company relationships, processes, and performance.

Questions about what the employee enjoyed about their job, appreciated about their supervisor, and what factors, if any, would prompt them to stay form the basis of the interview. Of course, Alan also asks the typical exit interview questions, but the emphasis is on how the organization and culture can improve.

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

2 Responses

  1. Paul Sgriccia
    | Reply

    Alan, excellent article today. As a manager, I found that many exit interviews were either slash and burn on the way out or less than open with reasons for the employee’s departure. I have used the “manage by walking around” method to routinely talk with employees about work and non-work issues. I will include some of the Stay Interview questions in future meetings with staff.

    Thanks and keep up the good work.

  2. Alan Feirer
    | Reply

    Thank you much, Paul.

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