Don’t wait until an employee’s exit interview to say “Thanks for your work!” A workplace with a vibrant culture of appreciation depends on leaders who listen to and thank employees early and often.
When used correctly, stay interviews are an important part of that process.
Growing in popularity, the stay interview is a meeting designed to engage employees before they decide to leave. It’s a chance to ask “Why do you stay here?” instead of “Why are you leaving?”
The exit interview “has seen the end of its useful life,” according to Entrepreneur contributor and Fortune 500 consultant Curtis Odom.
Exit interviews provide insight into employee retention after it’s too late, Odom explains in his article “Forget Exit Interviews — Here’s Why You Should Conduct Stay Interviews Instead.”
Stay interviews, in contrast, give employers “rich, actionable data” and show employees “that you’re taking the time to understand what’s working and what’s not.”
The stay interview is also your chance to express gratitude one-on-one and build a culture of appreciation that retains employees naturally. Read on for tips to conduct a great stay interview that shows gratitude and reinforces the employee’s choice to stay with your company.
7 Stay Interview Questions That Convey Appreciation
Inc. calls the stay interview “the one meeting that will help you keep your top employees.”
Dr. John Sullivan, former chief talent officer for Agilent Technologies and longtime proponent of stay interviews, recommends conducting the interviews with new hires as early as four to eight months after they start.
Stay interviews are inexpensive, personalized, stimulating and provide instantly actionable information, according to Sullivan’s TLNT three-part series on the practice. These touch-base sessions allow you to get to know your employee better and have the opportunity to engage in a productive, business-building approach.
So how do you get started? Here’s what to say in one-on-one stay interviews with key employees.
1. “What keeps you here?”
Why is the employee staying, and what specifically do they love about their job? Ask open-ended questions and give the employee the space and time to answer fully. Dig deeper and ask, “Why is that important to you?”
2. “What frustrates you?”
Don’t be afraid to open the floor for employee frustrations. Inc. senior writer Ilan Mochari recommends a series of questions about frustration, always with an eye toward finding resolutions:
“Think back to a time in the last 12 months when you have been at least slightly frustrated or anxious about your current role. Can you list for me the frustration factor or factors that most contributed to that anxiety? Can you also help me understand what eventually happened to lower that frustration level?”
3. “What kind of performance feedback would you like that you aren’t currently receiving?”
Not everyone wants to be recognized in the same way! Some appreciate tangible gifts or public words of affirmation, while others appreciate acts of service or quality time. Explore Gary Chapman and Paul White’s book “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace“ for advice on how to navigate employee recognition preferences.
4. “How can I support you to do your best work?”
Let employees know you’ve got their back. Understand what roadblocks are in their way to fully achieve objectives and discuss what can be done to help address these issues.
5. “What opportunities for advancement or self-improvement would you like?”
Are there talents, interests or skills the employee has that your company hasn’t taken into account? Would a training or mentorship program help the employee excel? What are their goals?
6. “Thank you.”
The very practice of conducting stay interviews shows that you appreciate employees, but be sure to say it explicitly, too! Thank them for taking the time to share their honest opinions and let them know specifically why you appreciate and value them as an employee.
7. “I’ll follow-up with you.”
Not all employees will feel comfortable opening up to their boss right away, according to Curtis Odom. Give it time, and make a note to follow-up later: “Your employees will appreciate your commitment to understanding what’s working for them and what’s not. Acting on the feedback shows an even greater commitment.”
Find the time to invest in getting to know your employees and what’s working or not working well in their efforts to support your business. You’ll be on the path to developing a deeper level of engagement — and employees who feel valued — as well as gaining important insights into managing your business.
Want More Practical Tips on Building an Everyday Culture of Appreciation?
Download our free eBook “Transform Your Workplace With Gratitude” for practical advice on recruiting and retaining a great workforce, engaging employees and building a sustainable culture of gratitude.
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