PREPARING TO CONDUCT STAY INTERVIEWS
Before conducting a stay interview, it is essential for a manager to follow a nine-step preparation plan. Each premeeting step is designed to increase the manager’s understanding of employee needs while strengthening employee commitment.
1. Plan. When first preparing for the stay interview, a manager should make a list with two columns: one for what is important for the employee, and one for what the manager believes. The latter column is simply for topics the manager might like to introduce if the employee does not. The contents of the two columns should be kept separate; what is important to employees is what should be stressed. Two potential detours exist at this stage: The employee will introduce unforeseen topics during interview, or the stay interview will somehow devolve into a routine performance review.
2. Have a clean slate. The employee sets the agenda for a stay interview. This means that management must refrain from directing the topic of conversation. An interviewer should not project his or her personal ideas onto the meeting’s agenda.
3. Devise questions. Stay interview questions should be open-ended so that employees feel free to expound on their feelings and opinions. A question is different from a probe, which should be used to gain information from the employee regarding potential solutions to problems. Five specific questions function as ideal probes during a stay interview: (1) What do you look forward to? (2) What are you learning? (3) Why do you stay here? (4) When was the last time you thought about leaving? (5) What would make work better for you?
4. Have resources close at hand. Reference to existing programs that are designed to retain employees should be at the ready during a stay interview. A good manager can match a company program to an employee need during the interview.
5. Move past fear. A good rule of thumb to follow during a stay interview is to “probe deeply, solve completely.” Understanding is the first priority for management; employee feedback should be met with openness and genuine concern.
6. Invite and schedule. The manager should let employees know that 30-minute interviews are to be conducted on an individual basis in the near future. The first should be scheduled with an employee who is more or less comfortable in his or her position and is compatible with management. The next interviews should be with the most valued employees; then with those who perform well but who may be considering leaving.
7. Choose a setting. When searching for new information from employees, it is crucial to select an environment where they feel comfortable and secure. Formality–or lack thereof–should be considered. It is generally a better idea to conduct a stay interview outside of the office in order to loosen the employee’s sense of subordination.
8. Gather equipment. A stay interview requires either an electronic device or paper for keeping notes. During the meeting, the manager needs to make detailed notes regarding key conversation items to use for crafting a stay plan. Taking notes also clearly demonstrates the manager’s attention and concern to the employee.
9. Envision success. The premeeting materials consist of a two-columned list, a clean slate, five researched questions, resources about employee programs, guidelines for moving past fear, and a detailed plan for invitations and schedules for targeted stay interviews with each employee.