DRAFT: Stay Interview Toolkit

Reduce turnover, increase job satisfaction, and build trust with Stay Interviews

The School of Medicine and Public Health encourages conversations between supervisors and their employees on a regular basis to identify the aspects of the organization and job responsibilities that are influencing the employee to stay in their current position, to explore ways that SMPH can better engage them in their work, and explore strategies to mitigate any triggers that may cause the employee to consider leaving.

Stay Interviews are employee-centered conversations, typically 30 minutes, between an employee and their supervisor that are designed to be candid, collaborative, open, and trust building. They are structured conversations to collect data on the employee’s experience, perceptions, and expectations. Stay Interviews require supervisors to ask, listen, consider, and then follow up on an employee’s requests. The conversations should not be focused on the employee’s performance or pay. A best practice is for supervisors to conduct Stay Interviews with all of their supervisees once a year, separate from conversations about performance.

Stay Interviews provide the following benefits, and more:

    • Reduce turnover
    • Increase retention of diverse employees
    • Build trust
    • Identify and solve issues before they become problems

The labor market has changed dramatically over the past few years and employees are seeking clarity on their relationships with their employer and their career. This reinforces the need for organizations to adopt Stay Interviews into their routine culture.

This toolkit is for both supervisors and supervisees:

    • Supervisors to prepare and conduct Stay Interviews with their supervisees.
    • Supervisees to understand the Stay Interview process. There are also resources in the toolkit specifically for supervisees.

Stay Interviews provide an excellent tool for learning why employees stay in the organization and what motivates them to work at their very best by going to the only true source of that information – the employees themselves!

This toolkit includes information and context that is useful for both supervisors and supervisees and should be freely used by both. The following are the steps for developing a Stay Interview process in a work unit.

Pre-Step: Prepare    Step 1. Plan   Step 2. Interview   Step 3. Follow-up

Frequently Asked Questions

Pre-Step: Prepare

Reflecting on your role

With guidance from its Office of Diversity and Equity Transformation, the School of Medicine and Public Health is committed to being a national leader among academic medical centers in anti-racism and diversity, equity, and inclusion. When planning for Stay Interviews, it is vital for the supervisor to think and reflect on their role as a supervisor and the organization and structure of their team. Implicit biases and power dynamics are at play on every team and may be referenced in experiences shared during Stay Interviews. The supervisee can also practice helpful self-reflection.

As a supervisor

Some questions for supervisors to ask themselves as they prepare for Stay Interviews include:

  • What biases and power dynamics are at play and influence how I am showing up and experiencing this supervisory relationship?
  • What cultural norms, practices, and social dynamics do we have in the workplace that influence this supervisory relationship?
  • What other factors might influence how I am showing up to this Stay Interview?
  • What am I doing to earn trust with this employee?

As a supervisee

Some questions for supervisees to ask themselves as they prepare for Stay Interviews include:

  • What biases and power dynamics are at play and influence how I am showing up and experiencing my relationship with my supervisor and colleagues?
  • What cultural norms, practices, and social dynamics do we have in the workplace that influence my relationship with my supervisor and colleagues?
  • What other factors might influence how I am showing up to this Stay Interview?

Resources

Step 1. Plan

Communicating about Stay Interviews with employees

Supervisors should set expectations with their teams in advance of starting Stay Interviews in their workgroup, including:

  • Sharing what Stay Interviews are and their purpose
  • Explaining how individual Stay Interviews will be scheduled and planned with each employee and what you seek to explore during those meetings

Stay Interview questions can be sent ahead of time to allow the employee time to prepare their thoughts. If the questions are sent in advance, it’s important to ensure that the meeting does not turn into the employee reading prepared responses, versus having a conversation. Exploratory and follow up questions are very important to ensuring a deep understanding is gained during the Stay Interview.

Timing and set up

Make Stay Interviews a routine part of your culture. Typically, these are done once or twice a year but can be more frequent if desired by the supervisor or employee.

Other considerations for planning include:

  • When scheduling the Stay Interview, a 30-minute meeting time is suggested.
  • Conduct Stay Interviews in fall and/or spring. Because annual performance reviews are conducted in the summer and mid-point reviews in the winter, fall and spring provide an opportunity to conduct Stay Interviews outside of a conversation about performance.
  • Conduct Stay Interviews individually. They should not be conducted with a group of employees at the same time.
  • If possible, conduct Stay Interviews in person or via video conference so the supervisor can read facial expressions and body language.
  • If conducted in person, consider a neutral location that will make the employee feel most comfortable.
  • Do not wait until there is a noticeable morale problem to launch Stay Interviews.

Planning your Stay Interview questions

A key aspect of preparing for the Stay Interview is developing questions to structure the conversation. Keep in mind:

  • Questions should be open ended and may need to be followed up with further exploratory questions.
  • Avoid yes/no questions.
  • You do not need to use the same questions for each employee, but consistency may help you identify possible trends.

Supervisors can use these core questions to get the most out of a 30-minute meeting. While supervisors should customize follow-up questions based on what they believe will help facilitate the sharing of the most impactful information from their team members, using the five core questions (or a variation) can help with a consistent and equitable application of the process.

Use the below to plan your Stay Interviews with each employee. Share this webpage with the employee so they can get a sense of what to expect in their Stay Interview, although let them know you may ask additional questions not referenced here.

Question 1: When you’re getting ready to start work each day, how are you feeling?

Ask this question to bring the employee’s mind to the present and help set a baseline for what aspects of the employee’s work they enjoy or dislike. The employee’s response can also key the supervisor into tasks and responsibilities they may want to take on in the future.

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Question 1 variations

  • What about your job makes you want to get out of bed in the morning?
  • What do you value most about working for (Department/SMPH/University)?
  • Are there aspects of your job or work environment that bring you joy and inspiration? Are there aspects that do the opposite? What aspects of the job that you do for SMPH bring out the best in you?
  • What makes for a great day of work? What makes for a bad day of work?
  • Do you feel a sense of purpose in your job? If so, what is most meaningful to you?
  • If you were to win the lottery and resign, what would you miss the most about your job?

Follow-ups for question 1

  • Is there a way to structure the job to ensure more of this happens more often?
  • What conditions need to be present for you to do your best?
  • What actions could you take to bring out your best work?
  • To what extent are you currently doing “the best work of your life” on this 10-point scale: 1 = never/not at all to 10 = always/to the greatest possible extent? What are the factors that, if they were more present, would contribute to you moving your rating to a 10?
  • To what extent do you feel that your work makes a difference in (Department/SMPH/University) and that it has a noticeable impact on customers on this 10-point scale: 1 = never/not at all to 10 = always/to the greatest possible extent? Please explain your response. To what extent is this important to you?
  • Describe the view of the team-based work environment here. What words best capture the teamwork environment? Please explain your answer.
    • What is the one thing you could do to strengthen the team environment here?
    • What is the one thing I could do to strengthen the team environment here?

Question 2: What are you learning here?

Ask this question to get an understanding of the employee’s development progress and needs. Employee development is vitally important for engaging employees and influencing them to stay.

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Question 2 variations

  • Is there something new you want to learn this year?

Follow-ups for question 2

  • How do you learn best? By doing? By observing? By attending trainings?
  • Do you feel like you could advance your career here if you want to?
  • To what extent do you feel “fully utilized” in your current role? If so, can you identify the factors that make you feel fully utilized? What about aspects of your job that make you feel underutilized?
  • Are there additional things that we as an organization or that you could do to take advantage of your talents and interests more fully? What are your short term and long-term development goals?
    • What career future do you see for yourself here?
    • What skills and knowledge do you see yourself developing or strengthening over the next several years?
    • What actions do you see yourself taking to help you move towards these developmental goals?
  • Imagine that it’s five years from now. Where do you see yourself working, what role are you playing and what is the work you are doing?
  • Would you like to grow within this organization? If so, how?
  • Is there anything you’d like to learn but haven’t yet?

Question 3: Why do you stay here?

Ask this question to unlock the unique reasons the employee wants to be a part of the organization.

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Question 3 variations

  • Do you ever think, “I love my job”? If so, when was the last time you said it what were the circumstances surrounding that?

Follow-ups for question 3

  • Is that the only reason?
  • How much does the type of work you do impact your decision to stay?
  • How much do you stay because you like working with our customers/clients/stakeholders? Our team?

Question 4: Have you ever thought about leaving our team? If so, when and what prompted it?

Ask this question to uncover key reasons that contribute to the employee’s likelihood of leaving and how those reasons might be addressed to prevent their departure.

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Question 4 variations

  • What would make you quit tomorrow?
  • If something were to happen in your job or if you were presented with a job opportunity outside of the organization – either of which might give you a reason to consider leaving us – what might that reason be?

Follow-ups for question 4

  • If you’ve thought about leaving the team and there was something specific that prompted it, does this still concern you?
  • On a scale from one to ten with ten being “I’m staying for the foreseeable future” and one being “I’m leaving ASAP”, how would you rate your intention to leave?
  • What is the single most meaningful action I could take to address this issue?
  • What can I do to make your experience better at work for you?
    • What can I do more of? Less of? What do I do that frustrates you?
    • Is there anything I do that strikes you as unfair or unreasonable?
    • Do you feel like I truly hear your concerns when you have them?

Question 5: What can I do to make your experience at work better for you?

Ask this question to get at the core frustrations and pain points an employee may be experiencing, and at the same time bring the conversation back around to a constructive angle for fostering retention. Here, the supervisor encourages the employees to consider an ideal scenario and describe what could be done to bring their current situation more in line with these desires.

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Question 5 variations

  • As a manager, what could I do a little more/less of?
  • What do you need from me to do your best work?
  • What can I do to support bringing out your best?
  • Do you feel a sense of belonging, support, and trust at work?
  • If I had a magic wand, what would be the one thing you would have me change about this department/team/organization?

Follow-ups for question 5

  • What are we currently not doing as an organization that you feel we should do?
  • What kind of feedback or recognition would you like about your performance that you aren’t currently receiving?
  • What do you need to experience belonging, support and trust?
  • What kinds of flexibility would be helpful to you in balancing your work and home life?
  • What stresses you? What aspects of your job do you find the most stressful?
    • Is there a way to structure the job such that these stressful parts can be reduced or eliminated?
    • What actions could you take to reduce/eliminate these stressors?
  • What can I do to reduce these stressful job elements?
  • If you were to suggest one change to your work or the work environment here that, if this was implemented, would enhance your level of engagement, what would that change be?
  • Is there anything else that you could tell me that, if I knew this, would help me better understand what brings out your best performance and better understand how I can be helpful in supporting you?

Step 2. Interview

When you are ready to conduct the Stay Interview, use the questions you identified in the previous step and follow the best practices below to get the most out of your interview.

To begin the interview, welcome the employee and share the purpose of the interview.

  • Example introduction script for supervisor:

My primary goal for our meeting is to learn what I can do to make this a great place for you to work.

I am going to be taking notes during our meeting to capture our conversation so that I can reference the information later as we co-create a Stay Plan.

I hope that we can use the information gained during this meeting to create a Stay Plan that promotes your engagement and supports this as a place you want to be for a very long time.

As you know, SMPH and university, like all organizations, have policies for which I can make recommendations for change, but that I do not have ultimate authority to change (e.g., pay, benefits, etc.). I still want you to tell me what is important regardless of whether I can change it, but I’m going to be listening especially for things that I can control, things I can do something about.

For supervisors: Best practices for the conversation

Be Honest

  • If there is something the employee brings up that the manager cannot change, it’s important to inform the employee of that. This starts with how the meeting is framed and expectations are managed from the start of the conversation.

Listen

  • Enter the meeting with a commitment to listen to your employee. Don’t guide the conversation into what you want to hear.
  • Do not get defensive if the employee shares a perspective you do not agree with.
  • Use eye contact, body language, and verbal responses to show your active listening.
  • Repeat what you are hearing back to the employee.
    • Clarify understanding by offering: “Let me tell you what I heard you say to see if I got it right,” and then repeat the message you heard.
    • Demonstrate understanding of employee emotions about a topic by identifying and restating the emotion in a way that shows you understand how they feel.

Believe

  • Believe employee’s experiences as they’re reported and resist the urge to question why because you may not understand or have a different experience yourself.

Explore

  • Explore and ask follow-up questions to get deeper into responses that are not clear or may have more behind them.

Take Notes

  • These notes will be helpful as you develop a Stay Plan with the employee following the interview.

For supervisees: Best practices for the conversation

Adequately prepare

Employees should ask themselves the following questions and reflect before the Stay Interview to prepared for the variety of questions that may come up:

  • Am I happy with my job?
  • Is my job fulfilling or not, and why?
  • What things about my work environment would I want to see change?
  • What do I want as an employee?
  • Do I have the resources/tools I need in my job?

Be honest

  • Give an honest response about your passions while incorporating how those passions relate to your professional career.

Take notes and follow up

  •  Take good notes in order to be mutually accountable with developing a Stay Plan as a result of the Stay Interview

Step 3. Follow-up

What you do after the Stay Interview is just as important as the interview itself. Following up on items you learned during the Stay Interview will be crucial for employee engagement, retention, and trust. Supervisors should develop an action plan following the Stay Interview. This action plan should include how to capitalize on items that keep employees engaged and satisfied in their role and reflect on things less satisfying to determine if changes may and could be appropriate.

Stay Plans

The most effective way to create accountability following the Stay Interview is to create a Stay Plan. Stay Plans work best when they are co-created with the employee. The employee and supervisor should both agree to the Stay Plan content.

Creating Stay Plans

The co-created Stay Plan should include:

  • No more than three initiatives to facilitate the employee’s engagement/retention
  • Actions the supervisor will take to support each initiative
  • Actions the employee will take to support each initiative
  • Dates for accomplishing each initiative

The supervisor and employee can co-create a Stay Plan utilizing the Stay Plan Template.

Access Stay Plan Template

Monitoring and updating Stay Plans

Ensure that the Stay Interview and Stay Plan are documented.

It is the shared responsibility of the supervisor and employee to engage with the Stay Plan and keep it updated as appropriate. Stay Plans should reside in a location that both the supervisor and employee have easy access to view throughout the year and be in a form that can be modified if necessary. You may consider storing the Stay Plan as a shared online document (Box, Google docs, Teams) for both the employee and supervisor to access and edit.

While SMPH HR is here to support the creation of Stay Plans, the co-created plan is not something that needs to be approved by or submitted to HR.

Other Follow-Up Actions

The Stay Plan is just one example of a documentation method. Supervisors and employees should utilize a format that works best for them and their next steps. Stay Plans may not be appropriate for all employees and some employees may not feel comfortable engaging in these plans, and that is okay.

It is still important for supervisors to take what they learned in the Stay Interview and create their own plan to help them continue to support their employee’s satisfaction and engagement at work. Supervisors and employees should utilize a format that works best for them and their next steps.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Who is this toolkit for?

This toolkit is for both supervisors and their supervisees.

  • Supervisors can use the toolkit to plan and conduct Stay Interviews that follow best practices. They should share the toolkit with their supervisees as they plan their Stay Interviews.
  • Supervisees can read through the toolkit to understand what their supervisor will do during their Stay Interview. There are also resources in the toolkit specifically for supervisees.

Is a Stay Interview different than a performance evaluation?

Yes, a Stay Interview is different from a performance evaluation. It is not a performance evaluation. As a best practice, a Stay Interview is a 30-minute meeting separate from a conversation about performance, such as a mid-point or annual review.

A Stay Interview can be more casual than a performance evaluation.

How long should a Stay Interview be?

A 30-minute meeting time is suggested for Stay Interviews.

When during the year should Stay Interviews be done?

It is a best practice to have a Stay Interview once each year. There are two great opportunities to do so: fall and spring. Because annual performance reviews are conducted in the summer and mid-point reviews in the winter, fall and spring provide an opportunity to conduct Stay Interviews outside of a conversation about performance.

Possible timeline

  • Summer: Annual Performance Reviews with all employees
  • Fall: Stay Interviews with all or some employees
  • Winter: Mid-point Performance Reviews with all employees
  • Spring: Stay Interviews with all or remaining employees

Why can't a Stay Interview be part of an annual review?

A Stay Interview should not focus on an employee’s performance specifically. It is more of an opportunity to discuss aspects of the organization and job responsibilities that are influencing the employee to stay in their current position, to explore ways that SMPH can better engage them in their work, and explore strategies to mitigate any triggers that may cause the employee to consider leaving.

Do Stay Interviews need to be done with all employees on a team?

It is a best practice for a supervisor to perform Stay Interviews with all of their supervisees. It is not recommended to prioritize some employees over others due to a perceived retention risk. Employees leave positions for many reasons that may not be apparent to a supervisor, and these can be uncovered during a Stay Interview.

Who can answer questions about Stay Interviews?

Human Resources Business Partners that serve each unit in the school can help with Stay Interviews, if needed. Their contact info is available on the Human Resources Contact Information page.

Comments or feedback?

Both supervisors and supervisees should feel free to submit.
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