The Overlooked Stay Conversation

There’s some debate over the best way to do exit interviews and how valuable they are. But there’s one kind of interview that most organizations fail to do — stay conversations. The concept is simple: Identify your top performers who you hope will stay with you the longest, and ask them why they stay. They may say things like:

  • “I have the best manager I’ve ever had.”
  • “I enjoy developing a product that changes the world.”
  • “I probably couldn’t find a job with this kind of flexibility for my family.”

Great managers already ask — on a regular basis — why their employees stay. It’s an important question because the answer is different for each person and because the answers can surprise you. What’s more, managers certainly regret not having this conversation when their best people choose to go work for another organization.

Great organizations also regularly gather insights from “stay conversations” on a more formal basis. This can be done through small-group discussions.

But the next step is crucial — taking that feedback and shaping your culture around your top performers’ feedback. Too often, organizational cultures form around what average performers want. The result? More average performers apply, get hired and stay. High performers may even stay away.

Another thing to note is the percentage of excellent hires that leave before the end of their first year. If a large number of high-talent individuals are moving on within 12 months, it could be a sign of a serious culture issue. This is where exit interviews provide the most value, particularly when they focus on top performers, critical roles and key moments in the employee lifecycle.

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