You’ve likely heard of an exit interview, where an outgoing employee is asked to share feedback on their time with the organisation to help better understand their motivations for moving on, and to highlight any potential improvements that could be made.

Exit interviews are really valuable for employers, but they can be a bit like the ambulance waiting at the bottom of the cliff – you only get to address any potential issues after your employee has already decided to leave!

In the labour short market New Zealand is currently experiencing, retaining employees has become more crucial than ever. That’s why considering a “stay interview” with your individual team members can be a great way to find out what the pressure points are, what could be improved and what’s going well, without having to wait for a resignation to bring any potential issues to light!

Stay interviews are exactly how they sound – it’s simply asking: “what makes you stay?”

It’s a great way for you to identify what keeps your employees motivated and engaged – something very useful to know if you’re looking to attract new talent in the future and want to demonstrate why job seekers should consider working for you.

You may be thinking, isn’t this what a performance review or regular catch-up is for? Sure, there can be some crossover and we’d hope any performance review or catch-up gives people the opportunity to raise any concerns (or highlights) they may have. However, someone getting ready for their annual performance review is understandably only going to be thinking about themselves within the confines of their role. You’re unlikely to get the same breadth or depth as a stay interview, which encompasses the organisation as a whole, as well as each employee’s individual role within it.

What should I be asking at a stay interview?

Keep your questions open ended, that way you’ll get much more informative answers. Ask things like:

  • What do you enjoy the most about working here?
  • What do you enjoy the least?
  • How do you feel about the level of work/life balance you have?
  • What would you change about your role if you could?
  • What would you change about the organisation if you could?
  • Have there been any major frustrations so far?
  • Has anything changed about your role or our organisation that you miss?
  • Do you feel you get enough recognition for your achievements, or could we do more?

Keep it conversational and casual. A very formal setting or structure may be intimidating to the team and less likely to draw out their true thoughts and feelings.

Who should conduct a stay interview?

Typically a stay interview would be conducted by the direct manager. But being honest about the things an employee isn’t happy about can be hard to do when they’re sitting in front of their boss, so you may wish to consider outsourcing a stay interview to a third-party provider or your HR team. With an impartial person conducting the stay interview, the employee may be more open with their feedback and emotions are less likely to get involved, making for a more productive conversation all round.

How often should I conduct a stay interview with employees?

The regularity of stay interviews can depend a little on what comes up when you begin holding them. Anything less than once a year probably isn’t going to be that effective as it gives too much time for issues to fly under your radar. However, you also don’t want to overdo it and potentially add more work to your team’s plate. Don’t be afraid to get their input and ask them how often they’d like to have these conversations.

Stay interviews don’t have to be long and you can even consider allowing people an opportunity to provide written responses with a brief follow-up chat. This gives the team time to think through their answers without the pressure of having someone across the table waiting for a response.

Remember that there can be many reasons for an employee considering a job change, and sometimes the progression or experience they seek is simply not something you can offer. An employee who feels supported and listened to, even if that means being supported into another organisation or role will not only be grateful, but they’ll also sing your praises. Don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth when it comes to attracting new talent, especially in a smaller talent pool like New Zealand!

If you need help or guidance when it comes to holding stay interviews with your staff, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at McLaren Associates!

Good Luck,
Kirsty and Nikki

Giving feedback to your Manager
Interview Question Examples