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Want to Remain at Your Company? Ask for a Stay Interview

Performance reviews are how managers say what the company wants from you; stay interviews let you say what you want from the company

By Jennifer Nelson

A lot of companies put their emphasis on performance reviews and exit interviews. The former, while often a necessary part of promotions, raises and retention, are transactional. You are told what you need to do a better job, and then, here's what the company will do for you if you succeed.

Exit interviews, in contrast, are too little, too late. Most employees don't want to sit with HR or their manager once they've given notice and tell them how to improve the company for future employees. They've already checked out.

An employee and her manager during a stay interview at work. Next Avenue
The stay interview or review is about a company understanding your ambition, motivations, challenges and feedback in real-time.  |  Credit: Getty

On the other hand, a third option — the stay interview or review — is about a company understanding your ambition, motivations, challenges and feedback in real-time, says Colleen Carswell, business strategist at Carswell Consulting. The firm, based in Asheville, North Carolina, helps entrepreneurs and business leaders improve their systems and teams so they can maximize their profits and their customers' passion.

"Employee turnover isn't just about losing a team member; it's about hiring costs, lost productivity, training expenses and the cultural impact on the remaining team."

"By regularly checking in, employers not only show their team that they're valued but also ensure that everyone is aligned and moving in the same direction," she says. "This makes a profound impact, not only in employee satisfaction and performance but also, on the company culture and profit margins."

Many studies show that losing just one employee can reduce a company's revenue by as much as two times the former employee's annual salary. What's more, says Carswell, "employee turnover isn't just about losing a team member; it's about hiring costs, lost productivity, training expenses and the cultural impact on the remaining team."

A 2021 Gallup Survey found that 52% of voluntarily departing employees said their company could have done something to prevent them from leaving their jobs.

Enter the Stay Interview

To consistently cultivate a nurturing environment for employees — and help their bottom line — companies should conduct stay interviews biannually. Google, IBM and Starbucks all use stay interviews to understand what drives employees, identify factors influencing engagement and retention and build stronger relationships.

If you work for a company that doesn't conduct them, initiate the process yourself by asking for a stay review, interview or conversation with your manager.

"The purpose of a stay interview is to gain insights into why the employee chooses to remain with the company and to identify areas within the organization that may require improvement or change," says Madeline Ann Lewis, Ph.D., coach, author, TEDx speaker and CEO of the Executive Women's Success Institute, which empowers women in their careers.

As an employee, asking for a stay interview shows the employer that you value the working relationship.

"Oftentimes, employees believe that their leaders are not fully aware of their roles, responsibilities, priorities and work deliverables," says Stacey Lewis, founder and "chief disruptor" at HR Interrupted, a national HR consultancy committed to curating leaders with grit.

Headshot of a woman. Next Avenue, stay interview
Stacey Lewis

Setting time aside in a structured environment to collaborate with your employer on your present and future with the organization is a good thing.

Engaging in this conversation demonstrates that you, too, are invested in the organization's people and business strategies as well as your future there.

"Besides, as an employee, it's always a good idea to create the appropriate space and opportunities to celebrate your work outcomes and contributions," says Lewis. "Whether you know it or not, someone (who can say your name in important spaces) is always looking."

What Happens In the Interview?

If you, as the employee, ask for the interview, it will be up to you to run the conversation. It's a strategic move to discuss your career aspirations, express concerns, suggest improvements and share where you want to be in two to five years. Some tips include:

  • Be prepared. "Reflect on what you value in your job, what motivates you, and any concerns or areas for improvement," says Sylvia Glynn, a career coach and resume writer at Ultmeche, a Beverly Hills-based premium career service for the engineering industry.
  • Communicate openly. "Express your thoughts about your role, what you enjoy, and what could be better," she says. Get feedback.
  • Discuss professional growth. Talk about the skills you have and the ones you want to develop.
  • Suggest solutions. If there are aspects of your job or the work environment you think can be improved, come up with potential solutions. "This shows initiative and a commitment to contributing positively to the workplace," Glynn says.
  • Set goals. Use the interview to set goals, talk about your future with the company and lay claim to where you'd like to be in a few years. "This can lead to a more tailored development plan that benefits both you and the employer," says Glynn.
Headshot of a woman. Next Avenue, stay interview
Colleen Carswell

At the end of your interview, ensure there is a sense of direction and next steps with mutually agreed upon action items and tangible results.

With companies eager to keep employee turnover low and engagement high, Stacey Lewis says stay interviews can have " incredible benefits for both employers and employees."

How Effective Are Stay Interviews?

The effectiveness of a stay review or conversation depends on a trusting and open relationship between the manager and employee and the manager's commitment to act on what is needed to keep employees engaged, motivated and satisfied, says R. Karl Hebenstreit, Ph.D., author, speaker and organization development consultant at Perform and Function in Vallejo, California.

If conducted well, stay interviews offer a trove of information for managers, employees and the organization about employees' aspirations, motivations and what change might be needed in organizational structures, systems or culture to make the company more appealing to current and new employees.

Exits are expensive, and companies are more willing than ever to listen to employees to retain them. These interviews are an opportunity to shape your career path within the company and ensure that your job continues to be fulfilling and aligned with your personal and professional goals.

Photograph of Jennifer Nelson
Jennifer Nelson is a Florida-based writer who also writes for MSNBC, FOXnews and AARP. Read More
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