Retention Strategy – The Stay Interview

I love a good suspense thriller. You know, the kind of movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat. There’s that scene with someone walking through the woods enjoying the beauty of the flowers and foliage thinking all is right with the world…and then comes a pivotal moment. They realize something is not right. The movie character realizes something is different and the mental checklist of “What’s changed?” begins. That’s the turning point in the movie when things start going downhill—fast.


That is the best way I can describe the feeling employers get when realizing something about a top performer has changed. They’ve somehow become distant and uninterested in their work. Productivity is slipping a little and they’re using more and more PTO days. All the signs become obvious to you as an employer (like the character in the movie) that something bad is imminent. What do you do? You address it head on. One way to do that is to use stay interview discussion.


3 tips



  1. Prepare for active listening


Steven Covey said it best: seek first to understand, then to be understood. Approach the discussion with key questions that will help you understand when things began to change for the employee and why they didn’t approach you during that time. Stay interviews should ideally be done periodically, not just when the figurative ominous music starts playing in the background. Build this into your retention strategy.


  1. Be prepared to negotiate


Remember, you are having this conversation with one of your best employees. Isn’t it better to negotiate a little versus risking the loss of a high-achieving employee and their loyalty, commitment, and knowledge? Many employers are willing to sit at the negotiation table when they are trying to hire a potential superstar. Why should it end there? After all, a top performer is your superstar. They know their worth and they’re going to continue to negotiate either with you or with another potential employer.


  1. Take action


General Colin Powell said it best “Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” The stay interview is about understanding the position of key employees and providing them with a means to discuss why they’ve stayed, what they need, and what would cause them to leave.  Listen, take heed, and take action.


What can you do?

You can help your company by building stay interviews into your retention strategy. Create a list of questions that will provide insight into what motivates or demotivates your key players. The questions should center around culture, leadership, compensation, development, and opportunity.


How can we help?

Here at Total HR, we can work with you to develop a retention strategy centered around communication, accountability, and action. We can also prepare stay interview questions that are customized to your business and tailored to each position. Contact us. We’re here to help.