Stay? Exit? … Why not both?

While hot topics are continually changing, certain issues, such as staff retention and, in particular, the retention of the best employees is a constant concern for HR professionals and organisations across the globe. Many organisations now engage in a variety of retention strategies. They spend time and effort up front ‘onboarding’ staff, use annual appraisals as a way of checking in with employees and, when an employee tenders their resignation, good organisations will hold an exit interview.  

The purpose of the exit interview is to find out what the employee’s experience has been while working for the company, both the positives and negatives and to ascertain why the employee has chosen to leave. An effective exit interview can supply useful information on all aspects of the working environment, company culture, morale, processes and systems, development programmes and opportunities and management. The intention is to use this information to help the company make improvements and, importantly, to help them avoid losing their best talent in future. It begs the question, why leave this important interview until an employee is already leaving, with one foot out the door? 

Some would argue that exit interviews provide little valuable information as exiting employees recognise that it is not in their best interest to ‘burn bridges’. And who can blame them. As an employee, you never know when you might want to work with an organisation again or when you might work with ex-colleagues and managers in the future. Something that is particularly true when working in a smaller business community such as Cayman.  

To be effective, an exit interview must be conducted in an environment of mutual trust and respect. The employee must view the interview as an opportunity to give some constructive feedback and know that the information gained will be dealt with sensitively and constructively. 

If an organisation really wants to know what they can do to retain their employees and avoid top talent leaving, they should ask them while they are still there. By holding stay interviews, the organisation will be adopting a more proactive approach that will enable managers to identify what it is that motivates their current employees to stay and what more can be done to retain these essential assets.  

Stay interviews can provide early warning signs of potential areas of concern and gives the organisation an opportunity to address the issue before it becomes a reason for an employee to leave. They will also highlight the things that are working well and important in satisfying the needs of your staff. 

 

A stay interview might include questions such as: 

What aspects of your work do you most/least enjoy? 

What do you like/dislike about your department? 

Why do you stay at this organisation? 

When do you feel most appreciated for what you do? 

What motivates you to excel in your position? 

Are we using your talents? Fully? 

What do you want to learn this year? 

What would make your job more satisfying and rewarding? 

 

In conducting stay interviews, managers should not be afraid to listen to their staff. The company may not be able to meet every employee’s requests but the fact that employees are given the opportunity to share their opinions, and have them acknowledged and validated is highly positive. Managers then have the opportunity to take appropriate steps to make improvements to the best of their abilities..  

Ideally, stay interviews should be done with everybody but, if this is not realistic or practical, then an organisation can look at particular demographics or departments. If there is a department, position or age group that repeatedly shows a high staff turnover then an organisation can use stay interviews to investigate what is happening with this group or position. In short, while both exit and stay interviews provide valuable information, stay interviews provide information that is useful today. They can help managers anticipate concerns and potentially provide solutions while their employees are still on board. The very act of engaging with staff, giving them the opportunity to evaluate their employer’s performance and communicate what is important, lets staff know that they are important and highly valued. 

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