Stay interviews

Enable all talent to thrive, have specific needs identified and increase staff retention.

Stay interviews (as opposed to just exit interviews) are getting very popular and with good reason as it makes sense to invest time and effort into exploring how staff are currently feeling and doing, as opposed to when they have already resigned.

The very name has a positive connotation – the message is “We value you and we would like you to stay with us”.

Retaining top and diverse talent is a huge challenge.

What is the purpose of Stay Interviews?

A proactive deep-dive via one-to-ones into how talent are doing in order to make proactive changes to enable all talent to thrive and have specific needs identified and increase staff retention.

Who conducts Stay Interviews?

It goes without saying that the stay interviews will only be effective if talent feel they can be truly honest, as such we recommend those conducting the interviews are not line managers of those being interviewed and ideally not in the same department to enable objectivity and a degree of separation.  We recommend that people responsible for talent wellbeing, this could be members of the people team, mental health first aiders, in-house recruitment team members and talent managers conduct the interviews. 

To be effective the outcomes from the stay interviews need to be shared, as such we suggest a member of the management team and a senior HR person sponsor this initiative and are responsible for collating the outcomes and arranging them into themes that can be turned into actions. 

When do you do Stay Interviews?

At regular intervals throughout the year invite people to join stay interview sessions with a selected member of the team. This interviewee/interviewer combination should be reviewed to ensure compatibility and facilitate an honest dialogue between both parties. Ideally, we would suggest that interviews are conducted across the year with at least 70% of your whole Agency interviewed within a 12 month period. We would suggest you prioritise interviews for members of the team perceived to be vulnerable, a flight risk, or with specific needs or recent changes that might require additional support.   For larger agencies, this might mean you need to conduct them quarterly for smaller agencies twice a year would enable sufficient coverage.  This should not replace the annual appraisal cycle nor the lived experience survey (should your agency run one) and when you communicate the stay interviews, we recommend you make this clear.

How do you do Stay Interviews?

We would suggest that these interviews are short, approx. 15-20 mins in length but that interviewers should be mindful that they may lead to lengthier conversations and should allow time for overruns.  All interviews should start with a caveat that all discussions are confidential but if something is raised that alerts the interviewer to someone being at risk (the interviewee or otherwise) that they will raise this with the HR team for safeguarding purposes.  Interviewers also need to ensure they’re equipped to direct talent to relevant resources should they need to e.g. NABS advise line etc

Below is a few suggested questions that interviewers could use to open up the conversations to enable honest and direct feedback:

  • Do you consider yourself to have a protected characteristic?
  • Does your team enable you to be yourself and are you supported to thrive?
  • Do you feel you get enough recognition?
  • Do you feel positively challenged by the work you are assigned?
  • Would you say you have enough tasks to do?
  • Over the past year, how would you rate the support you receive from the agency 1-10 scale score, ask why the person has given that score. (having a score enables Agencies to track progress over time)

What do I do with the information I’ve gathered?

After the interviews, each interviewer will write up the themes that have emerged and share these with the management and HR sponsor.  They will then ensure proactive action is taken to address the key themes.  Below are some of the actions that they may take:

  • Policy review
  • Manager training
  • Review and amend resourcing approach
  • Review and update reward strategy
  • Grievance resolution

It’s worth noting that talent who have offered insight via the Stay Interviews will want to know what’s being done with that insight, so it’s important for the Agency to communicate any changes that will be taking place as a direct result, this will further encourage the participation of more of the Agency in future Stay Interview sessions.

By Annabel Mackie, Managing Partner at M&C Saatchi, Fiona McArthur, Group Managing Director at DDB UK and Emily Hawkins-Longley, HR Consultant and Head of People at Dazed Media.

Last updated 10 November 2021