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Discover the Secret to Keeping Your Best: Stay Interviews for Employee Retention

Tim first published this article Stay Interviews almost seven years ago. At the time, this was a relatively new employee engagement strategy. It has gotten quite a lot of traction in many companies, big and small, ever since. Are you ready to try it?

In the key area of employee retention, this has become my new favorite question:

“What would it take for you to stay?”

When do we normally pose this question to a key employee? Of course, when they announce their plans to leave the company. In the exit interview, as a last-ditch effort to keep them, we ask this question in hopes of some miracle. Rarely are we that lucky.

By the time an employee decides to leave, more than likely, they already have a new job. They already announced their new plans to their family and friends. It would be hard for that departing employee to change their plans now. Hence, why wait until the end of their employment to ask this question? Why not ask at the end of their first 30 days of work? It’s not unusual for a new employee to experience some doubt about their job as ear as the end of the first month. The job may not be quite as they’d imagined.

This is a perfect time for a “Stay” interview.

By definition, a Stay interview is a 1-to-1 meeting with a key employee with the intention of finding out what it will take to keep the employee or to prevent them from leaving.

Recently, one of my clients shared how he thought a new employee was at risk of leaving. He was concerned because it was an important position, and the new employee was performing very well so far. He met with the employee the next day as it was the conclusion of her first 30 days on the job.

“I think I am going to offer her another $5,000 in annual salary,” my client said.

“Are you willing to try something different first?” I asked.

“Sure”, he responded.

I then offered: “Before handing over an extra $5,000, ask her a very simple question. Begin by telling her how pleased you are with her performance to date. Next, ask her what it would take for her to stay. Finally, do something very hard for all CEOs—say nothing.”

“Sounds easy enough,” he responded.

The next day, I received a call from my client in the late afternoon. He had tried my suggestions, and he sounded thrilled.

“It was great!” He exclaimed with great gusto. “I told her how pleased I was with her work over the past four weeks and how valuable she had already become as a team member. Next, I asked her the big question about staying.”

“There was a nervous pause, he said. I think she was surprised. Next, she said that when I hired her, she thought she should have asked for a little more salary. Maybe an additional $15,000.”

“I told her I thought we could do that. Then she said that her job would be much easier if she could have access to an online tool that might cost about $500.”

“Again, I told her we could afford that as well.”

“Finally, she shared with me that her daughter typically got home from school around 4:30 in the afternoon and she was getting home from work around 5 pm. If she could be home when her daughter arrived at the house, it would be fantastic. She added she would be happy to arrive at work as early as needed to get her job done.”

My client paused for a moment to catch his breath. Clearly, he was very pleased with the outcome of this meeting.

“How did you respond to her final request?” I asked.

“That was the easiest of the three,” he said. “Family is one of our core values. She will start coming in earlier starting tomorrow.”

“I am doing some quick math and I have come up with about $2,000 in additional costs for this star employee.” I offered.

He said it was the best investment he could make.

This was a great example of the Stay interview. Several important takeaways:

· Be proactive with your Stay interview. Don’t wait until the employee resigns.

· Ask and then be a good listener.

· Be prepared to take quick action.

Are you ready to try a Stay interview with your best employee? I look forward to hearing the results.

About Author:

Tim Fulton is a renowned small business consultant with over 30 years of experience. He's an accomplished entrepreneur, counselor, and academic, known for his successful business ventures and insightful books like "Small Business Matters.

Inspired by Tim Fulton's article on "Stay Interviews"? Elevate your employee retention strategy with CSR. We offer expertise in strategic planning, sales management, and more. Reach out at 404-850-7957 or, or fill in our contact form for tailored solutions.


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