Stay Interviews and Employer Branding

by | Oct 15, 2019

Do You Conduct Stay Interviews?

Stay interviews are an excellent way to engage with current employees, while finding ways to encourage the retention of top female talent. 

Organisations very often conduct exit interviews when an employee leaves. This is already too late and the chances of getting some genuine and honest answers are slim. The stay interview which can be conducted periodically (every quarter, half-yearly or annually,) gives managers an opportunity to measure employee engagement and to build trust. This is not a replacement for a performance appraisal. However, it does work as more of an ongoing employee engagement survey to test the temperature of the culture across an organisation. It's also a helpful tool for organisations to establish what motivates particularly their female employees to stay in their organisations and to showcase their stories as part of their employer branding strategy.

Build trust

Understanding why employees stay in your organisation is critical today, as research from Gallup suggests that 63% of employees are not engaged. A study from Catalyst shows that women prefer to seek career opportunities within their own organisations. They generally leave for  reasons related to changes in personal circumstances (divorce, childcare, commute, work/life balance), or because of a toxic culture. So there is a chance that the women who do stay in companies, feel stuck in what's called the marzipan layer. They will not be working to their full potential at either a personal or organisational level and are high risk for disengagement. A stay interview highlights to any manager the highs and lows of the employee experience during the period in question. Employees prefer workplaces where they feel connected and belong, so stay interviews are an opportunity to show they are being listened to. A LinkedIn survey found that 71% of women would be willing to take a pay cut to work in an organisation that share their values.

stay interviews

Who to interview

Very often organisations offer solutions without understanding the real problems.  Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg, author of  Innovation as Usual: How to Help Your People Bring Great Ideas to Life, commented in the Harvard Business Review in 2017, companies tend to focus on solving problems without doing accurate diagnostics.  He found in surveys of 106 C-suite executives who represented 91 private and public-sector companies in 17 countries, "85% strongly agreed or agreed that their organizations were bad at problem diagnosis, and 87% strongly agreed or agreed that this flaw carried significant costs." Fewer than one in 10 said they were unaffected by the issue.  He identified a pattern motivated by a need for action (which tends to be male coded behaviour) managers tend to "switch quickly into solution mode without checking whether they really understand the problem."

Organisations need to get to grips with why women don't leave their companies and what motivates them to stay. This involves a deep dive into sensitive areas around culture and workplace experience. Conducting stay interviews with high performers and / or long serving employees can give helpful insights into what women experience in the talent pipe line. This process can be very effective in organisations with open, collaborative communication cultures. In organisations where there are known issues or challenges, discretion may be more important,  so anonymous employee satisfaction or engagement surveys can work best to identify areas for improvement. Sharing the stories of women who stay with your organisation on careers web sites via post or video, can be part of any employer branding strategy to attract female candidates. They highlight a female employee's experience of your organisation as well as their career progression and successes.

3Plus offers a wide range of experienced mentors who can support and encourage women in business. Find out more about the Mentoring Programmes HERE.

Content of Stay Interviews

Most stay interviews are short, informal and productive with the manager posing structured questions. They can also be carried out online, but then they lack the relationship element.

The purpose of a stay interview should be clear. The aim is for the manager to learn the reasons why an employee stays, and to gain an understanding of what he/she can do to make it a better experience. For the employee, on the other hand, the interview offers a chance to share  their experiences of their job, as well as to find out what support can be offered within their managers remit.

Ideas for Questions

Questions should be open-ended. The manager should adopt a coaching and collaborative approach, sitting at the side of the employee rather than opposite, in a hierarchical way. The manager should listen actively. This means giving the employee time to think and speak at their own pace, without interruptions or prompting. At the end of each question paraphrase: "Have I understood correctly..."

The manager should be careful not dismiss any comments from the employee or judge. It's important to pay attention to body language, because it's possible to communicate negatively with even a small gesture.

Tell the employee you may make some notes for your own benefit. Some questions could cover:

  • What do you like most/least about your job?
  • What makes you most/least excited about coming to work?
  • Why do you stay in our company?
  • What would you change about your job if you could?
  • What would you do more of if you had the chance?
  • Which of your talents and skills are being underutilized in your current role?
  • What skills would you like to upgrade?
  • Are there any new skills you would like to learn?
  • What are your key drivers or de-motivators?
  • How can I best support you?
  • What can I do more of or less of as your manager?
  • What would make you leave?

Summary of Stay Interviews

To close the stay interview, do a recap of the discussion. Make sure that you cover all of the points; you can even give a written copy if you want. Additionally, you could commit yourself to making a career development plan and make a note of any issues that might potentially cause the employee to leave. If the reason is confidential, ask permission to share the problem with a relevant party.

How Do Stay Interviews Help?

When employees feel that their opinions and voices count and their leaders or bosses are committed to improving the workplace culture, the likelihood of increased productivity rises. The data from any interviews can be analysed and used to identify any patterns in a particular department or area. HR can decide if it's a company wide issue and match against sample results in other regions or functions. In certain functions the data can be compared to other results too, such as productivity or sales results.

The aim of a stay interview is to retain the best talent. As such, it is important for the company to implement the findings and give feedback, to let employees know their voices have been heard.

We need to create diverse and inclusive workplaces. Don't underestimate the power of equality. Check out our Unconscious Bias Training Workshops NOW.

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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