How to Conduct Stay Interviews and Improve Employee Retention

Written by: Lucy Walters
Published on: 3 May 2022

Stay InterviewsAs The Great Resignation continues across the Life Science industry, now is the time for employers to reassess the working environments they offer and adapt these to the changing needs of workers post-pandemic.

One way to understand what is and isn’t working well within your organisation is to arrange stay interviews with your employees. These are conversations between an employee and their direct manager about what they like about their role, what issues they’re facing, and what they’d like to change.

Unlike an exit interview which helps you understand and learn from the mistakes you’ve already made, stay interviews give you the opportunity to stop smaller issues becoming long-term problems, ultimately helping to reduce your resignation rates.

In this article, we outline the key benefits of stay interviews, how to conduct them, and how to make them worthwhile for both Life Science employers and employees…

5 Key Benefits of Stay Interviews

Stay interviews help you understand how you can improve the employee experience before they find a new opportunity elsewhere. They give you the chance to identify any issues your employees are facing as well as time to create actions and improve overall employee satisfaction. The key benefits of stay interviews also include opportunities to:

  • Improve employee retention whilst reducing staff turnover
  • Increase employee engagement
  • Promote employee wellbeing and infuse this into your company culture
  • Understand current and future employee trends and implement this knowledge into future talent attraction strategies
  • Build trust with employees and improve relationships between employees and managers

When to Conduct a Stay Interview

If possible, make them an annual occurrence and keep them separate from performance reviews. However, if you’ve planned a stay interview for 3 months’ time but notice that your employees seem disengaged and unmotivated, be flexible and have the conversation sooner rather than later.

Preparing for the Interview

How often you conduct your interviews, as well as what each one consists of, shouldn’t be random. You need a strategy in place for your interviews to ensure you get the most out of them, and that the right actions can be taken where necessary.

If you want employees to be open and honest with you, you need to be prepared to explain what you’ll do with the information they give you. If you can show them an action plan that proves what they say will be taken seriously, you’ll get much more from them during the conversation, so have this prepared before you set up your meetings.

When preparing for the interview, you should also:

  • Give employees plenty of notice and sufficient time to prepare
  • Find a private and neutral location to make the conversation less intimidating (e.g., a private meeting room instead of at your desk)
  • Ensure you have the time to conduct all your interviews within a close time frame to allow you to act quickly
  • Allocate yourself more time than you think you may need, as you don’t want to interrupt employees after they’ve started opening up
  • Prepare a list of questions to ask, although be flexible and follow the flow of the conversation

Here are 16 questions you could ask your employees:

  • What do you like/dislike about your role?
  • Do you feel valued by your colleagues?
  • Do you feel appreciated by me/your manager?
  • How would you describe your work-life balance?
  • Do you feel you have enough opportunities for career development?
  • How does the role you do now compare to the role that was advertised?
  • Is there anything you loved about your previous job that you no longer have?
  • Is there anything in your role that you’d change?
  • What motivates/demotivates you at work?
  • Do you feel you’re making an impact in your work?
  • Do you have any other skills, experience, or knowledge that aren’t being utilised?
  • Is there anything you’re eager to learn?
  • How would you describe your role within the team?
  • How would you describe current team morale?
  • How do you see your career developing?
  • How can I better support you as a manager?

Conducting the Interview

For stay interviews to be effective, there must be trust between employees and managers. If your organisation has strict hierarchies with lots of separation between junior and senior employees, you’ll find it hard to create an environment where employees feel they can be open about the parts of their job they don’t enjoy.

To build trust with your employees:

  • Reiterate that the purpose of the conversation is to find out what is and isn’t working within your organisation so that you can improve the overall working environment for every employee
  • Make it clear that the feedback given will be confidential
  • Share your strategy with employees to show them exactly how their feedback will be used, and to make it clear that these conversations are being had with everyone

To encourage employees to be open, think about how you phrase your questions. For example, “How do you feel about working here” is less likely to encourage them to talk about their issues than a direct question such as “What do you dislike about your role?” It will be daunting for employees to be honest, so using these questions will let them know that you want to hear the negatives as well as the positives.

After the Interview

After the interview, thank employees for their time, summarise the feedback you’ve taken on board and show appreciation for their honesty. Continue to encourage open conversations with your employees outside of your meetings with them, and stay alert for any arising issues in your team.