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An Employee Retention Game-Changer: The Stay Interview

October 3, 2017 | Peter Corless

The stay interview is changing the game in employee retentionDoes your long-term care or senior living organization find it’s spending an exorbitant amount of time on new hire interviews, only to have employees churn in and out? This “revolving door” effect is keeping hiring managers in senior care busy, especially when you consider that the rate of turnover in some staff positions is well into the high double digits. The situation seems pretty dire, doesn’t it? Luckily, a little proactive discussion can help.

Enter: The stay interview.

What is a stay interview? Stay interviews are interviews that are conducted periodically with existing employees.  And they can offer a wealth of insight into the reasons employees stay with a company—as well as the reasons they leave.

“We’re a big fan of stay interviews because we want to learn why someone would leave before they leave and we want to get to know every associate,” says Tommy Comer, Chief Human Resource Officer at Commonwealth Senior Living. “They’re a way to personalize things and engage someone in a dialogue with their direct supervisor to find out what’s important to that person and where there are those potential sore spots. We like to ask the questions like, ‘how do you want to be recognized when you do a great job?’ and ‘What are those reasons you could leave?’”

Some providers might be hesitant to implement stay interviews, and rightfully so.

Comer explains, “I think a lot of supervisors are scared of the answers or they think it’s always going to be about money. Our data suggests it’s not that; it’s often simple operational hang-ups.”

A 15-30-minute stay interview can help save providers the time and money associated with hiring and training new employees. Here are some questions and answers that can help you introduce the stay interview to your organization.

When to do a stay interview

There’s no hard and fast rule as to when to do a stay interview, but a good rule of thumb is to check in with an employee after they’ve been with the company for about one month. This initial stay interview can be a way to show employees that the company cares, and demonstrating this care early on can serve as a strong sign to an employee that you’re committed to his or her career path.

But don’t stop with just one. Make stay interviews a regular habit—whether they become monthly meetings, or bi-annual check-ins. Do what makes sense for your organization.

Who should conduct stay interviews

Since stay interviews are based on trust, it’s important for an employee’s manager to conduct the stay interview, rather than an HR executive. The person conducting the interview should be familiar with the employee and his or her role. It should be someone the employee trusts with information that may be sensitive, or even negative, at times.

What to ask in a stay interview

The idea of a stay interview is to identify areas where an employee may be unhappy, and address them before they lead to that employee turning over. Not sure what to ask? Here are few questions recommended by the Society for Human Resource Management:

  • What do you look forward to when you come to work each day?
  • What do you like most or least about working here?
  • What keeps you working here?
  • If you could change something about your job, what would that be?
  • What would make your job more satisfying?
  • How do you like to be recognized?
  • What talents are not being used in your current role?
  • What would you like to learn here?
  • What motivates (or demotivates) you?
  • What can I do to best support you?
  • What can I do more of or less of as your manager?
  • What might tempt you to leave?

Try to target some of the employee's aspirations as well as day-to-day happiness and challenges. Some of the feedback from the stay interview can be applied directly while other information will be helpful to the manager on a big-picture level.

“Maybe their issue is a schedule challenge or maybe they’re concerned about something fairly minor that’s a pretty easy fix, but they just haven’t said anything. Or, you might find out that they want to grow,” Comer explains.

What to do with the information from a stay interview

Be prepared to make changes based on the information gathered in a stay interview, and don’t bother conducting one if you don’t have any intention of doing something in response. It’s not essential to deliver an employee’s wish list, but if there are items that come up in the stay interview that are logical to address, do so accordingly. When employees see their employer is willing to adjust to accommodate even a small need or concern, they’ll be more likely to stay and more motivated to work to support your mission.

Stay interviews are also an opportunity to identify trends that may exist within an organization. If five different employees say they are dissatisfied with the same thing – say, the way schedules are created and/or managed, employers should investigate alternate methods like employee scheduling software that makes it easy for staff to view their schedule, pick up shifts and request PTO.

“Stay interviews are completely free. And what if you could lower your turnover by 10-15 percent on controllable items? It just seems like a no-brainer.” says Comer.

Done right, stay interviews can drive employee engagement, increase employee retention and cut down on the number of interviews your HR team needs to conduct.

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About Peter Corless

Peter Corless is Executive Vice President of Enterprise Development for OnShift. Peter is a recognized HR leader in post-acute care and is well-known for his achievements at some of the country’s largest post-acute care organizations, including Kindred Healthcare and Genesis HealthCare. As an experienced, chief administrative and human resources officer within these organizations, he developed strategies that reduced turnover, improved recruiting and hiring strategies, and reduced labor costs.

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