Stay Interviews - Have Them Before It’s Too Late

Ed Pintwala
July 10, 2024

Most of us have heard of an Exit Interview. A much better approach would be to encourage your team to have a ‘Stay Interview’. Why? Because recruiting is hard.

Backfilling roles is timely and expensive, and people are people, most just want to know where they stand, and how to plan for their future - so help them do this! Logical right? Well, I rarely hear of it happening…

I don’t love the name, but basically, a Stay Interview is an open and honest conversation between you and your Manager (or perhaps with HR or both), about where you currently stand in your role, the company, and what a progression path may look like for you in 6,12, 18 months…call it a retention and planning discussion.

This is different from a formal performance review, or 360 degree assessment. It’s more a one-on-one, genuine conversation on where you stand performance-wise and how you may fit into the future. The aim should be to look forward and get to know your employees' motivations, concerns, and factors contributing to their job satisfaction. With the goal of improving retention, loyalty, and productivity.

I would recommend doing this over a coffee, breakfast, or lunch, creating a more relaxed environment and establishing trust - especially if you’ve been working remotely or are a new manager to this person.

One of my favourite regular interview questions that relate to this is:

  • “If you were to stay in your current role, has there been any discussion about a promotion for you or upside and growth?”

Then you have to listen to how the person responds:

  • “Yes I’ve asked about a promotion or taking on more, but there is just no room in the organization for this or need” 

(This could be true, or could also mean they are not outperforming in their role, and are not being promoted for a reason)

  • “Yes, but my Manager is still pretty young and not going anywhere any time soon so I’ve kind of hit the ceiling.”
    (This could also be true, but for really strong people, sometimes new roles or lateral moves are created for them - to keep them challenged and in the business)
  • “No that’s never been talked about”
    (This could very well but true, but again, is this because they are not seen as a strong performer who the company or hiring manager wish to promote)?

From there you can go one step further and ask - 

  • “Have you ever had a formal performance assessment, or been given a raise or promotion”
    Please elaborate…

This is asking for an on-the-spot reference or evidence of performance on the spot.

Regardless of what responses you get from people,  I find very few mid-size companies seem to do this at all. Let alone do it well. Some of the larger ones in CPG, like Nestle, PepsiCo, and General Mills, seem to have their own version of this, whether you call it progression planning or performance tracks for strong performers.

What this does is keep your people highly engaged, their mind at ease, and their energy focused on their job, vs. always looking around in case there is something better out there, or worse, working on eggshells in a fear or uncertain-based culture. 

I think engaged, and good Hiring Managers and Leaders are naturally doing this every day. Incentivizing people, pushing them, challenging them, and asking for more, but at the same time showing them a path on how to obtain more - and then stand by it and deliver it.

Companies that take the extra time, care, and effort to layer this on top of ‘job profile’ and standard ‘job duties’ expectations, will reap the benefits. Especially in this environment where it seems competition is fierce, and costs are skyrocketing, but with a diminishing talent pool, and more demanding customer base, Manufacturers are getting squeezed from every side - and some are willing to pay more, or at least reward their people more in some shape or form - to win the day to day battles in getting product to shelf, and positioning for every bit of growth or extra margin they can.

I get that it’s hard, but staying on the hamster wheel of underpaying and constantly recruiting and backfilling is harder. 

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