Most managers are familiar with exit interviews – a series of questions asked of employees who are terminating their employment with the company. The purpose of the exit interview is to gather information about the employee’s opinions of their employment with the company – how did the employee feel about training, management, their pay and benefits, what types of obstacles or challenges did the employee face, why is the employee leaving employment with the company, etc. This information can then be considered when deciding whether to make any changes at the company for the remaining and future employees.
While very useful information can be obtained from exit interviews, they are done too late. By the time an employee is completing an exit interview it is too late for the employer to make changes for that employee. Instead of exit interviews (or in addition to) employers may want to consider doing “stay” interviews with their existing employees. Find out how the employee feels about their position, their pay and benefits, their supervisors. Learn about what challenges employees are facing. Ask for suggestions to improve the workplace. Get a better idea of what is working and what employees do enjoy about working there. What keeps the employees coming to work for you every day? There are numerous benefits that apply to asking employees these types of questions but perhaps the two most important are:
- Employees feel appreciated and respected when asked for their opinions. People generally prefer a workplace which respects them which makes this a great retention tool. Especially if positive changes occur as a result of the findings from the stay interview.
- You are given information about what’s working and what’s not with a chance to make improvement.
There are a few important things to consider before implementing stay interviews at your organization. First, and possibly most important, you should only conduct stay interviews if you are open to making changes at the organization. While obviously not all suggestions can be implemented, employees are less likely to continue to give feedback if there are never any changes considered.
Second, stay interviews aren’t for every organization. If your company culture involves a level of trust and open communication between employees and managers, the stay interviews are more likely to be successful. Conversely, if employees don’t have trust or open communication with their manager, they are less likely to provide sincere feedback during the interview. They may instead provide information which misleads management to make changes that won’t address the real challenges or issues occurring at the company.
Finally, when stay interviews are implemented, not all employees need to participate. Start with your key employees – the ones that would be difficult to replace or are “key” to your organization for any other reason. Note: When deciding which employees to do the interviews with, make sure that your reasoning for excluding any employee(s) is not for discriminatory reasons such as being part of a protected class (gender, race, religion, etc.).
When changes are made as a result of the stay interviews, let employees know that the feedback gained from the stay interviews lead to the change(s). Don’t leave it up to the employees to figure out or guess that the stay interviews resulted in the change(s).
One final note, stay interviews are generally best done in person between the employee and their direct supervisor or manager. The questions asked can be personalized for each department, position, or employee as needed.