Once the dismissal is on the table, it is almost impossible to encourage the employee to stay. A new trend is therefore to find out early on what motivates employees or makes their daily work miserable. The focus is now shifting to so-called “stay interviews”: conversations that get to the bottom of possible reasons for quitting.
Stay interview: What is it?
The goal of a stay interview is already in the name: The English word “stay” means something like “stay”. HR wants to find out the reasons why employees might leave the company – and what factors might encourage them to stay. The basic idea is to recognise at an early stage, through regular conversations, when an employee is on the move to a new employer – and to pull the emergency brake in time.
In this short conversation, even seemingly satisfied employees are asked about what might make them want to quit. A relaxed, not too formal setting should ensure that employees really open up and talk about possible reasons for quitting.
A prerequisite for successful stay interviews is absolute confidentiality. If there is a risk of what is said leaking out, employees would not speak openly for fear of labour law consequences. HR staff can conduct stay interviews from a more neutral perspective than supervisors.
Why stay interviews could become an indispensable tool
With a stay interview, employers can prevent future dismissals by learning about their employees’ existing pain points at an early stage. This gives them enough time to react and prevent a dismissal. Small smouldering conflicts and dissatisfactions sometimes do not even pile up into a problem mountain from which the employee can only escape by resigning. Stay talks also give employees the feeling that their worries and concerns are being taken on board and that someone really cares about their needs.
In contrast, termination talks take place only after the employee has already resigned and the last day of work is approaching. This way, the employer may still find out what led to the resignation and can work on problems. However, the departing employee is still lost to the company.
Possible questions in a stay interview
Which questions are addressed in a stay interview depends on the company as well as the employee and his/her position. Possible questions include:
- What do you look forward to every day when you come to work? This question gives a deep insight into the employee’s motivation, his passion and enthusiasm for his work. If he cannot think of an answer to this question, this is also meaningful.
- What don’t you like about your work? This question has the potential to reveal possible problems that could lead to dismissal sooner or later (e.g. poor pay, arguments with colleagues, not enough challenging work).
- Are you satisfied with your work-life balance? Work-life balance is one of the most important criteria for employee satisfaction today. If there are points of criticism here, HR should take them seriously and look for solutions.
- Compared to your previous job, is there anything you miss now? This is a somewhat more indirect way of asking about aspects that can cause dissatisfaction. Moreover, at best it provides starting points for improving the working environment.
- What do you think about on the way home? Does the employee feel relieved when he has finished work? Does the anger of the afternoon still linger? Or does he go home with the good feeling of having achieved something today?
With what thoughts or feelings do you come to work? Ideally, the employee is looking forward to his colleagues and tasks. If he is not thinking about his work at all or is dreading the day ahead, this is not a positive sign.
- What was the last experience that frustrated you at work? With this question, the HR employee finds out if there are problems in dealing with the team. Afterwards, solutions can be sought together.
- How would you describe your dream job? Whatever qualities the employee states here – the employer should ask in detail whether they can currently offer them. Often the employee provides interesting starting points for optimising internal communication, the working atmosphere, career opportunities or the work-life balance.
- If you were to quit today, what would be the reason? A clear question that brings to light even small things that are not yet a problem today but could become one at some point.
However, the answers should always be taken with a grain of salt: There is a great danger of making a mountain out of a molehill just because of a short-term disagreement in the team. That is why HR should incorporate the employees’ answers into other conversations to verify how pressing a problem really is.
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