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You Need to Have This Talk With Your Employees Right Now

You Need to Have This Talk With Your Employees Right Now

Part 1: The Stay Interview 

The Work Institute’s 2018 Retention Report tells us that 29% of employees left their jobs in 2018 to work elsewhere, and the percentage is expected to climb to 33% by 2020. Businesses and organizations intent on success need to pull out all the stops to address employee retention! This blog series offers three critical conversations that should figure prominently in your retention strategy. 

The first crucial conversation is the stay interview. Everyone is familiar with the purpose and value of the exit interview. Have you considered making an effort to get the same valuable information without having to lose the employee? The stay interview is an opportunity for the employee to share the ‘State of Work’ from their perspective, and an opportunity for the employer to cultivate their relationship with the employee. 

To conduct a stay interview, set up a 15-20 minute meeting with your report, and let them know you simply want to check in with them. Begin with open-ended questions that invite the employee to provide their perspective on their job, on the company and their professional goals. There are plenty of stay interview question resources on the internet, but core questions will include:

  • What do you like most about your job, and what is your biggest challenge?
  • From your perspective, how did (some recent work project) go? How would you improve it?
  • What do you want to learn, and what could you teach others? 


Some employees might need more encouragement to open up, while others might need only one question to open the flood gates! In the stay interview, the employer should express appreciation to the employee for their input, indicate clearly that you’ve heard them, and perhaps brainstorm ideas and strategies that can build on the information they’ve provided. 

Some managers avoid stay interviews because they’re afraid of what they might hear. The employee’s feedback is likely to create work for the manager, or they may ask for changes or improvements that require unavailable resources. The exit interview is less about ‘solving’ problems and more about exploring solutions together and making issues known. Some additional considerations for your stay interview:

Don’t go on the defense

Try not to spend much time in the stay interview defending the company, as you’ll only erode the employee’s confidence in your ability to advocate on their behalf.

Don’t entertain the absurd

If any employee wants to rearrange the whole org chart, gently point out that such dramatic change is unrealistic, and gently steer them back to topics where improvements could actually be made.

Keep it positive

When an employee starts dog-piling with negativity, pick a prominent matter and ask them to offer up their best ideas on solutions.

Conducting stay interviews is a skill that improves over time, and conducting regular stay interviews sends a clear message to employees that your company values candor, creativity, and engagement. Such deliberate attention to talent moves beyond lip service to Our Most Valuable Resource and is bound to serve as the cornerstone of your retention strategy.  

Mark Brodbeck, MSW

Director of Marketing at eMentorConnect. Passionate about people intent on elevating others, and other examples of enlightened self-interest. Frank Sinatra said it best: 'It's one world, pal. We're all neighbors.'