Stay Interviews Are the Innovative Thing We Didn't Know We Needed

Guest Contributorby Dick Finnegan | Posted | Engagement

Stay Interviews Are the Innovative Thing We Didn\'t Know We Needed

Steve Jobs invented wonderful things we didn’t know we needed. He looked far beyond surveys, focus groups, and others’ opinions to drive home ideas he was certain we would crave. What data told Steve that we would want cell phones that would store downloaded music, making us walk around with buds in our ears? There was no data, just the ideas in Steve’s head. Why are we talking about Steve Jobs? Because we're going to talk about a similarly innovative idea that we don't know we need, but we will.

What is a stay interview?

A stay interview is a structured discussion a leader conducts with each individual employee to learn the specific actions they must take to strengthen that employee’s engagement and retention with the organization. It’s all about getting to know how leaders can help engage employees.

Stay interviews are a Jobsian idea

Stay interviews seem like a Steve idea because they’re one of those game-changing innovations no one knows they want until they realize what they can do with them. Think about this:

  • For the past 7 years voluntary quits have skyrocketed across the U.S.; young workers change jobs and companies 10 to 14 times by age 38
  • Gallup tells us employee engagement has been flat for the past 15 years, and just 32% of our workers give their best
  • Deloitte says we are on the verge of spending $1.53 billion each year to improve engagement, spending more for the same “solutions” for which we have a track record of total failure
  • CEOs consistently report their number one concern is people….having enough good ones and keeping them
  • HR executives report their greatest challenge is improving employee engagement and retention, the very topics on which we continue to fail

The solution for all these concerns, and more, are stay interviews. Maybe we need Steve to come back to tell us this because no employee has ever asked for one, no manager has identified stay interviews as a solution, and no executive is driving the team to implement them. In fact, according to exit surveys the top reason employees leave is “better opportunity”. Can anyone tell us precisely what this means and how to fix it?

Why do employees really leave?

Better data tells us the primary reason employees leave or disengage is they don’t trust their immediate supervisors. “Pay” is a popular choice in surveys for why employees might leave and why they did leave, but deeper, more reliable reports tell us “pay” and “better opportunity” are easy, knee-jerk answers that hide more controversial truths.

Use stay interviews to keep your top talent

Just as Steve held the data in his head, I have the data on the value of stay interviews from my vast experience thinking about and implementing them with our clients. Our company has helped numerous organizations implement stay interviews and they have seen turnover fall up to 50% in the first year.

The key to success is found here:

stay interviews

It’s the magic and the data of fresh thinking in your company. If we are focusing on improving retention our key data points are:


Converting turnover to dollars lets you know the precise dollar value of losing a key employee from each role in your organization. No longer are your executives looking at turnover percentages and asking for benchmarks. ”Who cares how we compare to other companies if we are losing $6.4 million each year?” Now, executives are fixated on improving turnover rather than just reading reports.


All companies have goals for sales and service but few have goals for retention. More importantly, first-line supervisors are the right people for establishing goals because strong data tells us they play the greatest role in whether employees stay or leave.

Stay interviews

Ah, the missing piece! Supervisors must learn each individual employee’s needs and find ways to address them. Surveys tell us the trends and lead us to believe all employees have identical needs, but they don’t, and you can’t retain them with one-size-fits-all programs. You must know the unique needs of your top performers, which surveys will never tell you.


Salespeople forecast future sales both to inform management about what to expect and to build in accountability for their own performance. Why not ask supervisors on all levels to forecast how long each employee will stay? Something as simple as an employee list where green indicates more than a year, yellow 6 to 12 months, and red less than 6 months. Strong focus can be placed on retaining valuable employees who are at risk.


Note that the arrow in the graphic above extends back to goals and forecasts - the same metrics for which salespeople are held accountable. Holding supervisors accountable to goals and forecasts while training them to conduct stay interviews is the business-driven combination for retention success.

Stay interviews are powerful

Given the data, we think Steve would agree that stay interviews are in the same category as the iPhone. They’re both things we didn’t know we wanted, and now can’t live without. How far out of touch are exit surveys? In the past year I’ve surveyed 8,200 HR executives on whether their companies conduct exit surveys and nearly all have said yes. When I next ask how many would say their companies are better off as a result, the number who said yes was 20.

That’s .0024%.

Stay interviews cut turnover and improve engagement – it’s like magic, but driven by real life data, and leads to great business outcomes.

To help you and your organization harness the power of stay interviews, Halogen’s e-learning partner Vado has collaborated with Dick Finnegan to offer a series of courses which can be uploaded to Halogen Learning™. You can also purchase Dick’s book The Power of Stay Interviews here

The Power of Stay Interviews

Want more details on the power of stay interviews? Then this webinar is for you!

Watch Video

The Power of Stay Interviews

Want more details on the power of stay interviews? Then this webinar is for you!

Watch Video

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