Leadership / 09.14.23
What Is a Stay Interview? Best Practices Plus 15 Questions to Ask
Entertainment ticketing is a vibrant and dynamic industry, spanning many genres and experiences that captivate audiences around the world. Behind the scenes of every successful event, dedicated ticketing professionals work passionately to ensure the show goes on without a hitch. However, while the great resignation appears to be over, retaining and attracting top talent is always important. That is where stay interviews come into play, offering a proactive approach to understanding your team's needs, aspirations and areas for improvement. In this article, we'll delve into the world of stay interviews and explore how they can help you keep your ticket office running smoothly and foster a thriving and motivated workforce.
So, what exactly is a stay interview? We asked Allison Arnott, an expert in workplace happiness, for her insights. Arnott is the founder and "Chief Happiness Officer" of the Happiness Department, a consultancy using research-backed methods to design employee experiences that promote and preserve well-being while creating fulfilling work environments.
“A stay interview is a conversation with an employee who you value, who you want to retain, who you want to be happy, and you want this person to be productive and do their very best work,” Arnott says. “You want them to have meaning and fulfillment in their work, and you want to make sure that they are going to stay with you and be happy for a long time. The other way of thinking of it is an exit interview before the person is even thinking about leaving.”
The idea is that stay interviews are conducted with enough time to address and correct any problems — well before an employee decides to look for another job. When done correctly, they can also positively impact morale, deepen the relationship between employees and their immediate supervisor, and allow you to receive honest feedback.
“Stay interviews will only work if the employee trusts the manager,” Arnott says. “So, the manager has to work on their own professional development and their own skills as a leader to cultivate the kind of relationship where their people feel psychologically safe to be honest with them … They have to be sincere. The employee can't feel like the manager is just ticking a box. Ideally, you don't even have a pen in your hand. Ideally, there is no desk between you. Ideally, you are sitting and having a conversation … If there is something that [the manager thinks] they are not going to remember after the meeting, then they might take some notes, but it should not appear like a formal interview. It should be more like a conversation.”
There is more than one way to conduct successful stay interviews. When led by the employee’s direct manager, they can help to cultivate a relationship based on trust and honest communication. This is critically important, especially given the role of bosses and supervisors in shaping workplace satisfaction and the profound impact an employee's relationship with them can have on their choice to stay with an organization.
“Stay interviews work best when the manager has actually started laying the groundwork for it well before the interview … The direct supervisor has a lot of influence in how people perceive work, their workplace happiness and their intention to stay,” Arnott says.
Of course, there will also be situations where a direct supervisor may not be the best person to conduct stay interviews. In these instances, you may need to turn to a third party. “I just advised a client to do this recently,” Arnott says. “They had a really valuable employee. They were concerned that the employee might be thinking about leaving because of the team environment, because of the direct supervisor.”
Arnott continues, “I do not love anonymous surveys for this. Anonymous surveys often tend to be filled out by the very happiest or the very angriest people. In an anonymous survey, people … let out their road rage. Same as when you are in a car, and you are more likely to scream and yell at someone when you have two panes of glass between you. Anonymous surveys are a little bit like that, too,” Arnott says.
Stay interviews should be conducted at least once a year but not be tied to an annual performance review. Newer employees can also make excellent candidates for stay interviews once they have settled into their roles and become familiar with the work environment. “If you have someone who has started and it becomes clear that they are a good fit and that … this is someone who you want in the organization, then that's a great time to do one,” Arnott says.
Arnott also recommends stay interviews if managers are “starting to sense that something is up with someone, their productivity is not what it was, their attitude is not what it was, they are sort of not pitching in, or they are not speaking up. I would [also] do it if there are any major changes in the team environment or the work environment that may impact how people are feeling.”
She adds, “There might be times — and this has certainly happened to me — where I have somebody on my team who I think is just stellar, and I have started to notice that other people are hiring these [types of] people. So, I'm thinking, OK, someone is definitely going to try and [recruit] this person from me. What do I have to do to make sure that they are unapproachable?”
Location matters when it comes to stay interviews.
“I don't like them over Zoom,” Arnott says. “There is a real benefit with the in-person connection for something like this, and if possible, it would be great to get out of any kind of environment where the person might be nervous or feel pressure. So, I wouldn't do it in a boardroom if possible.”
Instead, experts suggest a café, a walk or anywhere else that an employee may feel comfortable having an informal conversation. Some suggest asking where the employee you are speaking with might like to meet. It is, of course, possible that you may need to meet in your office. If that is the case, what does Arnott recommend?
“If you do it in your office, I always like to have a little round table. I get up from my desk. I sit at the table with the person. I try to sit so that there is no table between us. I try to sit so that the chairs are facing each other. Ideally, it would be in an environment that they don’t associate with any other. I would not do it in the HR department, and I would try to do it somewhere that is not at all nerve-inducing for the person you are speaking with,” Arnott says.
How you prepare employees for stay interviews is also important.
“I am a big proponent of the direct supervisor, the team leader, creating a psychologically safe and very transparent environment for people,” Arnott says. “So, I might bring it up in a staff meeting and say, ‘I am going to do these interviews.’ Or, ‘There's this big change, and I want to acknowledge that it might be a good time to check in with everybody, see how you are doing and make sure you have what you need from this work environment. I'm going to be scheduling stay interviews with you. I will take each of you down for a cup of coffee in the next few weeks.”
Stay interviews can last anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes or more. Arnott suggests leaving space in your schedule after these meetings in case they run over. That said, there may be times when an employee wants to keep talking even longer. If cutting things off for another meeting is unavoidable, Arnott recommends being honest and transparent. “Say, ‘I am going to schedule another one of these meetings,’ and then have a part two.”
Some managers are nervous about booking stay interviews because they fear the employee will ask for something they can't give them.
“There is this misperception that employees just want more money, and that is … super far from the truth,” Arnott says. When employees list the top things that they want, money is six of six. People want a fair wage, and then beyond that, they want things like respect, trust, growth opportunity, connection and meaning in their work.”
She continues, “The fact that you sit this person down and say, ‘You are really valuable to me. I don't want to see you go. I want to make sure that you have everything that you need. What can I do? What can we do that would make you stay and be happy for a long time?’ The fact that you ask automatically ticks the value, respect and recognition box for people, and these are important elements of workplace happiness in and of themselves. I want to feel valued. I want to feel like I am making a unique contribution, that my boss sees that I am making a unique contribution, and that it matters that it's me and not the person next door doing this job. So, even the fact that you are asking, whether the employee realizes it or not, subconsciously fills the cup of workplace happiness for that person.”
If an employee does ask for more money and you don’t have the immediate ability to offer a raise, Arnott suggests this approach. “The manager can say, ‘You are worth that to me. You are worth your weight in gold. I would do it if I could. And I can't. And here's why.’ And then if it is true and if it is possible and if you are in this kind of environment, the manager can say, ‘I can go to bat for you, and I can try to see if there is anything at all we can do.’ Then, you have to follow through, circle back to the person, and tell them the outcome. It will never hurt you to ask, and it will never hurt you to follow through on the commitment that you made in that meeting. No employees are ever going to say, ‘Oh, I asked you for a 10% raise in this stay interview and you can't give me a 10% raise and I'm leaving.’ That just does not happen.”
Here is a list of 15 questions to start collecting valuable feedback during stay interviews. Listening and asking thoughtful follow-up questions will show that you genuinely value your employees.
- What makes a great day for you? What do you look forward to at work every day?
- What do you dislike about work every day?
- Is there anything you would change about this job that would make you want to stay indefinitely?
- What does your dream job look like?
- What did you love about a past job that you no longer have?
- If you had a magic wand, what one thing would you change about this department, team or organization?
- What could I/we do to make sure that no other organization could ever recruit you away from us?
- If you could imagine yourself ever leaving this organization, what do you think might be the reason?
- As your supervisor, what could I do a little more or a little less?
- What can I do to make your job more satisfying?
- How would you rate your life-work balance? How could it be improved?
- What do you think of the way employees are recognized?
- How do you like to be recognized?
- What do you want to learn this year?
- In what ways do you feel valued and included by me? The team? The organization?
You’ve got the information, now what should you do with it? In part two, INTIX Access will address formulating your stay interview action plan.
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Tags: Leadership , Workplace Happiness