Stay Interviews: A People-Focused Practice

by Anđela Krasić | September 1, 2022

Estimated time to read: minutes

As part of our People Ops practice at Extension Engine, we conduct “stay interviews.” A stay interview is a two-way conversation between an employee and a People Ops representative. Feedback from employees is critical to the health and success of any company, so you should always seek to understand and analyze what your employees have to say about your organization. We’ve found many benefits to this practice and would like to share our knowledge and advice for holding those interviews.

Why You Need Stay Interviews

Stay interviews are set as recurring events, happening at least once a year. They’re independent of the usual manager/employee one-on-one meetings. At Extension Engine, we collect employee feedback in several other ways in addition to these in-person meetings: pulse surveys, engagement surveys, and exit interviews are a few examples. 

The key value of stay interviews is that they allow us to start a conversation with an employee when there’s still time to course-correct if they’re concerned or unhappy about something. The insights you gain from these talks can enable your organization to learn what employees care about personally and professionally, helping you understand what motivates each employee to remain in their job.

In our experience, the main outcomes of stay interviews are better interpersonal relationships, valuable employee feedback, increased employee engagement, improved employee retention, and increased trust.

Tips for Conducting Stay Interviews

To conduct effective stay interviews, you need open communication and trust between your employees and leadership in your company. Before performing an interview, you should define areas of interest and choose questions or issues you’d like to discuss. But you also need to be flexible with the agenda, since your employees may not find the same things interesting and worth talking about. You need to adapt to each employee to talk about the things they find important. 

Ensuring that employees trust you throughout this process is also crucial, since they are not anonymous while sharing information with you. While it is important to build a culture of open feedback across your organization, many companies have trouble creating and maintaining such a culture. Therefore, employees may provide information in stay interviews that they wouldn’t say directly to colleagues or their manager. This makes it essential that this event is held in a safe environment and that no one is called out, criticized, or penalized for their feedback. You can do this by presenting information collected from stay interviews to management in an aggregated way, rather than by associating it with any individual employee, and by letting your employees know how it will be shared.

Below are some suggested questions that can be used in stay interviews:

About the Employee

  • Why did you decide to work here?
  • How does your work compare to your expectations when first starting here?
  • Have there been any surprises since you joined that I should know about, good or bad?
  • After [X] years at [company], how do you feel overall?
  • When was the last time you thought about leaving the company? What factors contributed to your thought process? Have those thoughts been tempered?

About their Work

  • What would you like to spend more time on?
  • What would you like to spend less time on?
  • What are the biggest time wasters for you each day/each week?
  • Is there an aspect of your job that needs more help or coaching?
  • Is there anything blocking you from getting your work done?
  • What kind of flexibility would be helpful to you in balancing work and home life?

About their Growth

  • Do you feel challenged at work? Are you learning new things?
  • Is there someone in the company whom you think you could learn a lot from? What would you like to learn?
  • Do you feel this is a good place for your career to grow?
  • Do you believe you possess talents that aren’t used in your current role but could be? What are they?

About the Company's Culture

  • What are the most positive things about our company culture? What do you like most about working here?
  • What are the most negative things about our company culture? What do you like least about working here?
  • Are there any aspects of our team culture you wish you could change? What would make your job more satisfying?
  • What do you think could help us improve daily communication?

About Feedback

  • What is the best feedback you’ve gotten in the last 90 days?
  • Do you have performance conversations with your manager? How often?
  • Is your work recognized when done well? Do you feel you are recognized? If not, what kind of recognition would be meaningful to you?
  • Do you feel comfortable giving feedback to your peers and receiving feedback?

About their Manager

  • Do you feel supported by your manager?
  • Are there any manager behaviors that you dislike?
  • Do you feel that you receive adequate coaching and feedback on your work?

You should be an active listener during the interview, and take notes, as it’s hard to remember everything. Always ask for examples so that you can get a better understanding of the full situation. 

After the Stay Interview

After conducting all the stay interviews, compile the answers. The result of each stay interview is information the organization can utilize to improve in areas like communication, leadership, and development of their people, with the ultimate goal of retaining top talent. When you address common areas where improvements could be made, you’ll be able to take action to boost employee morale, engagement, and retention. 

Remember that conducting stay interviews without providing follow-up actions is a sure way to lose the trust you’ve built with employees, which would make the interviews pointless. Have a plan in place so that your employees know you not only listened to their answers but truly heard them and want to assist with their health and happiness at your organization.

At Extension Engine, we’ve already implemented some changes to address issues raised by employees during stay interviews. We’ve made investments in employees’ professional development and added new perks to our benefits package for team members in Croatia, including paid health care, an annual medical checkup, and 100% covered sick leave. We’re reflecting on making additional changes to address other challenges, and we will keep you updated on how it goes.

Anđela Krasić

Anđela Krasić is the People Operations Manager at Extension Engine. She holds a master’s degree in Psychology and has more than five years of experience in People Operations in the IT industry. Anđela is supporting our engineering team in Croatia and she is responsible for recruiting, engagement, and development.

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