Could “Stay Interviews” Be the New Key to Employee Retention?

June 4, 2019

In this Supply Chain talent market, employee retention is more important than ever – and this emerging interview practice could be a great way to keep people satisfied.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics, there were 7.5 million open jobs in the U.S. at the end of March. Given that research has shown the Supply Chain economy accounts for 37% of jobs in the U.S., that means – back of the napkin – that 2.7 million of those jobs were in the Supply Chain sector. The economy is still in a strong expansionary phase. Supply Chain is only increasing in prominence within business. The baby boomers are retiring, and all these factors indicate a talent “crunch” within Supply Chain Management.

What’s more, candidates are aware of the strong market, and are becoming more mobile. A survey by Robert Half last year showed that as many as 36% of Canadian workers were planning to look for a new job within the next 12 months. Judging by the number of candidates we’ve been hearing from at Argentus since then, that’s been borne out.

In this market, companies are pursuing new methods to help improve their employee retention. They’re gradually increasing compensation and benefits, which will always be a major factor. But as we’ve written about, the best companies are also taking a long hard look at their own processes to see where they might improve their working culture – the more intangible, maybe more important factor that hums underneath the surface of candidates’ decisions. They’re putting real resources into figuring out how to encourage a more collaborative workplace, how to incorporate sustainability initiatives, and how to make employees feel like they’re having a concrete impact beyond day-to-day firefighting.

Now, there’s a lot of buzz about an emerging interview style that’s asking employees a difficult question in an effort to understand their needs: “why, exactly, are you here?”

The Stay Interview.

In short, a stay interview is a more formal way of assessing an employee’s job satisfaction. It’s a “reverse performance review” where a manager or director interviews an employee to assess what the employee loves about their job, and where the organization is falling short. A stay interview may incorporate questions about business processes, company performance, an employee’s goals and hopes for the future. It’s a formal check-in that gives a company’s superstars carte blanche to speak truth to power in hopes of keeping them on.

It might be intimidating to open the floor to stay interviews. After all, you might not like what you hear. But it’s an emerging practice with lots of possible benefits.

As Forbes points out, stay interviews have one big advantage over other employee retention schemes like team-building exercises and perks: they’re tailored specifically to each employee. It’s a one-on-one session that helps build trust, and ensure that everyone is pulling in the right direction, which is key to job satisfaction. It surfaces issues before they become issues. It’s also an opportunity for business leaders to gather crucial information about their teams’ hopes and dreams, and the company’s strengths and weaknesses – info that it’s easy to assume you already have, even if you don’t.

A stay interview might incorporate questions like:

  • What’s motivating you most in your work?
  • What are the biggest pain points in getting the outcomes you want?
  • Which aspects of the company’s culture are most satisfying?
  • Which are the least?
  • What would motivate you to leave the company, and have you thought about it?
  • What changes to the company culture would most motivate you to stay?

This is just a sample of something that might come easier to some managers than others. For some, it can be intimidating, but a more formal process – including clear communication and the provision that feedback should be constructive rather than just kvetching – can help make it easier to implement.

Something as simple as asking employees about their hopes, dreams, and current level of satisfaction might seem obvious – but the rise of the stay interview says a lot about how little of a voice employees have had in the past. It’s also something that, in our opinion, companies should absolutely consider adopting in their Supply Chain and Procurement functions.

And if you’re a senior manager, director or HR leader and you don’t want to institute stay interviews, look in the mirror and ask yourself whether it’s because you might not like what you hear.


  1. John P. Miles

    Perhaps the name has changed but top tier managers have been meeting with folks for decades, unfortunately most managers do not. For the top performers at least twice a year to discuss performance, their expectations, thoughts on progression and whatever else if on their mind.

    For folk on the fast track perhaps quarterly….same or similar conversations. I sometimes feel that we are missing the boar on verbal communication and thats unfortunate. These conversations for both parties to through stuff out there, good bad or indifferent. Retention and such is an every day item that needs to be addressed in an ongoing way……we won’t even talk about mentoring and how the needs have grown and the reality is it is happening less and less.

    • Argentus

      Thanks for the great comment Jack! Agreed that “Stay Interviews” are, in some ways, a new name for a practice that the best managers have been doing for decades. Stay tuned because we’ll have a new post about the importance of mentoring in employee development / retention in the coming weeks!

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