The Website and Blog of HR Author and Speaker Lori Kleiman

Exit Interviews… Too little too late! Think Stay Interview!

Excellent recruiting can ensure low turnover and a highly engaged team, but a stay interview can help us focus on keeping top talent for lasting success.

Exit interviews seem to be a process in organization with little analysis. HR team members collect data, or have employees complete a survey, and little is done with the information. In small organization this is often because 3-4 exiting employees don’t create much of a pattern – in larger organizations the data is historical in nature and manager just aren’t interested. Instead of continuing with the same task, let’s revamp the process and gather the data when we can still impact change.

The vast majority of recruiting is required because a team member left for another opportunity. Most managers hate recruiting – and recruiting is a huge drain on human resources. Wouldn’t it make sense to shift some of our focus spent on recruiting today to the retention of your current staff? Yes, some employees need to go – and for those positions you want to reset the function, get rid of unproductive employees, and find top talent in the market. The key is to make sure that you understand what is driving top performers away keep the employees that drive your business forward.

Enter the Stay Interview. Essentially, it’s a tool to gather information while your team is intact – and look at what they would find appealing in a new position. With a well designed stay interview, you can now generate programs, processes and communication that may keep team members from looking elsewhere.

Stay interviews take on a variety of forms. We see more and more organizations conducting open focus groups. I often like to invite a random group of employees to breakfast with leadership and have them talk about what they like and what they would like to change. This allows employees to ask questions, speak openly and form a connection with leadership that may build a bridge should an issue arise in the future.

Benefits of stay interviews include:

1. Understanding your turnover. Track the separations from your organization and look for patterns. What are their reasons for leaving/staying? Is there a pattern relating to a certain period of time with your company, or maybe a particular department? One solution may not fit all, and it is important to find the right solution for your needs. Use this information to create the topics of interest for your stay interview.
2. Answer questions employees may be thinking about. Don’t wait until they leave to ask why…ask now! See The Wall Street Journal Article. It goes beyond an engagement survey – instead asking specifically why they like working for you. If they could change one thing in the next 3 months what would it be? What would cause them to look for a new job.
3. Review reward policies in relation to retention. Data tells us that employees are continually getting 3% raises, but if they switch jobs they can get a 10 – 15% increase. This has always baffled me! Why wouldn’t you pay 10% to a top performer that you know – and knows you – rather than take a chance on an unknown person? There isn’t always a promotion opportunity in your organization, or the employee may want a new experience, but consider it next time your top talent is up for a raise.

The economy is strong again, unemployment is low and we see employees looking for new opportunities. Employees generally prefer to stay with the organization they have given their energy to in the past – but if they don’t feel connected they have no problem moving on! Feeling like a valued part of the team that is contributing to the business’ success is often what employees are looking for today. Open communication from both supervisor and subordinate is key and a stay interview can be an effective way to connect.

Recruiting will always be an essential function of every organization. Excellent recruiting can ensure low turnover and a highly engaged team, but we must also ensure time is well spent by focusing on the retention of top talent for lasting success.

Lori Kleiman is an HR expert and HR speaker who conducted over 30 seminars in 2016 to business people and HR professionals sharing best practices and new initiatives. If you’d like to have Lori keynote one of her HR presentations at your upcoming event, click here, or email Lori directly at!
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