Throughout my career in leadership, I was always confused and annoyed by exit interviews. Why did we have to wait until people were about to walk out the door before we asked them about their experience working with us?
Most of the useful information that might be gleaned from an exit interview arrives far too late to do anything about it. It’s too late to intervene if there’s a problem. It's too late to give praise that can make someone feel valued. It's too late to provide feedback that could change the outcome of an important project.
For me, stay interviews have so much more to offer. Conducted yearly or twice-yearly in many high-performing companies, they’re a great way to reinforce positive culture, learn more about what’s working, and ensure your long-term employees feel heard.
Let’s take a closer look at these two types of interview, and what they’re designed to do;
Exit interviews are held once, just before the employee leaves the organisation. The goal of an exit interview is to understand the reasons for the employee’s departure, and what the company can do to avoid similar departures in the future.
Stay interviews are held once or twice a year, more regularly in some organisations. They may be held with all of your people, or just a few key people that you’re especially keen to retain. The goal of a stay interview is to understand what it would take to keep existing talent in the organisation.
Now, let’s compare the two:
Advantages of Exit Interviews at High-Performing Companies:
- Exit interviews are low-cost retention tools. The only cost involved is usually the participants’ time.
- They provide insights on what the company can do to retain talent. However, these may be limited. Outgoing employees may feel that discussing the company’s shortcomings is a waste of their time, as they have already committed to leaving.
- They help you compare your company's offering to that of competitors. Outgoing employees may have interviewed with competitors, although they may not want to share details of competitor compensation and benefit packages with you.
Advantages of Stay Interviews at High-Performing Companies:
- Stay interviews are low-cost retention tools. The only cost involved is usually the participants’ time. It’s true that stay interviews might require a larger time investment than Exit Interviews, but the costs should still be low for most companies, and there’s flexibility around which employees are invited to take part.
- They provide insights on what the company can do to retain talent.
- They help you compare your company's offering to that of competitors. Just because an employee isn’t leaving the organisation, doesn’t mean they haven’t had offers from other companies, or researched other options. While they may not want to share the details, a stay interview will highlight what your company has already done to retain them, and how you might improve.
- They can help retain the person who’s participating in the interview.
- Stay interviews happen when people are motivated to help the company improve. At this point, it’s in the employee’s interest to help make their company a better place to work.
- They show employees that you value their opinion.
- They help you assess the health of company culture.
- They help you assess employee wellbeing.
- They can increase the employee's feeling of worth.
- If done correctly, stay interviews energise employees and stimulate ideas.
- They identify opportunities for training, coaching and mentoring across all levels of the organisation.
- They promote teamwork. Holding stay interviews reminds your people that you’re all working together towards the same goals.
- They allow you to address problems as they arise.
- They allow you to give feedback that affects key outcomes.
The practical efficacy of stay interviews will vary from organisation to organisation, but, for me, this people-led, responsive approach wins out every time. People Leaders at high-performing companies like Indeed* and iSolved** agree with me and have made stay interviews a key part of their People Strategy. What about you?
Scheduling and holding stay interviews is easier with Frankli. You can set up recurring stay interviews with your people in seconds using the provided Job Satisfaction template, or you can create your own. Frankli also provides easy ways to share and store notes and files relating to your meetings. You can find out more here.
Introduction: Throughout my career in leadership, I always felt that Exit Interviews offered too little data, too late. Stay interviews, which are conducted regularly with some or all team members, have many more benefits. Let’s take a closer look at them.