What do you like about your work? What would keep you here? What makes for a great day at work? Is there anything you would like to change about your job? Do you feel supported in your career goals? Do you feel we recognise you? What kind of recognition do you like? Never heard these questions before? Well, then you might get to hear such kind of questions very soon as a new concept is catching up in HR – ‘stay interviews’.

Stay interviews are becoming a trend and they are now used to reinforce good HR practices within the company. The concept is based on the ‘Hawthorne Effect’, which states that people who are given attention are a motivated lot. The employee needs to be heard since they feel good about being heard.

When job-hopping is the rule rather than an exception and when employee retention has become a critical issue, every company wants to know about those factors that can keep an employee engaged and committed, and stay interviews help the organisations in gathering these hard facts.

Employers are now running from pillar to post in order to do all they can to retain their employees. Though traditionally, organisations used to hold exit interviews with employees who were resigning in order to get their perspective on the organisation and the work culture, it was of not much help to both the employee and the employer.

Lending an ear

Asking employees at the time of quitting why they are leaving is like asking your spouse how to improve a marriage on the day before the divorce is final. By that time it’s just too late.

Stay interviews have been used all along but under different nomenclature – in the form of appraisals and consulting sessions. It is an employee sensing exercise, to detect early warning signals, to know about compensatory expectations so that the company can make a proactive correction at the right time before the employee announces that he/she is leaving. So, it’s almost like preventive health care.

Stay interviews are actually an outcome of Harvard Business School’s research and recommendation three decades ago, although it has caught up only in recent times. Exit interviews find out why employees leave, while stay interviews focus on what makes employees stay with the company, and thereby an opportunity for the company to do more of those things employees like most.

At a time when attrition is considered the biggest problem across industries and organisations are trying out all options to make their employees stick around, stay interviews might just be the right step. The objective and purpose of conducting stay interview is primarily to listen to the employees’ views, aspirations and comfort levels, to identify the areas of improvement and read the pulse that is to map the expectations of employees. HR is now looking at the `pull’ rather than the`push’ factor among employees.

Need of the hour

A stay interview should aim at sensitivity listening, collecting feedback from employees, identifying the strengths as well as areas of improvements, developing trust and confidence with the employees and ensuring freedom of expression and problem sharing.

Stay interviews focus on what is going right, rather than what went wrong. This is highly relevant in the Indian context where every industry is making a hue and cry about the challenge they face in attracting and retaining the right talent.

The need of such an interview was felt when the corrective action taken after exit interview was not able to contribute much on identifying the real cause of attrition. In some of the cases when the decision was deferred by addressing the significant few reasons of quitting the job, the insignificant many tends to pile up to backfire. Companies these days understand the need for constant engagement with employees. Stay interviews for them have become an indispensable tool to retain their workforce by making employees feel appreciated and motivated.

But then, don’t exit interviews do the same? Contrary to exit interviews, stay interviews are conducted to understand the reasons why the employees wish to continue working for the organisation. Stay interviews should be conducted once in six months. However, this depends on the size of the organization.

Stay interviews are more proactive, focus on the positive emotions of people who are enjoying their stay in their company and are able to point to things that the company is doing and should do more of because they are very happy about those things.

The huge challenge of retaining talent can be solved to a large extent by adopting the concept of stay interviews and understanding the psyche and needs of the employees. If adopted by our new generation HR teams it will work as an effective retention tool.

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