Urgent message: In increasingly competitive labor markets, ongoing success requires keeping your best people happy. A “stay interview” is one mechanism that can be used to identify at-risk employees and learn what you can do to keep them from leaving.

Alan A. Ayers, MBA, MAcc is Chief Executive Officer of Velocity Urgent Care and is Practice Management Editor of The Journal of Urgent Care Medicine.

The recent Gallup State of the American Workplace 2017 Report confirmed an unpleasant truth that many healthcare organizations already know: It’s getting harder to keep your best employees. Among its many sobering findings, the study found that healthcare organizations are especially struggling to combat staff turnover among its front office and nursing staff, two positions of particular importance in urgent care.

Additionally, the study affirmed that skilled medical professionals are keenly aware that they’re in short supply, and understand there’s real demand for their talents. Managers understand this, as well, so rather than regularly grapple with the costly and time-consuming prospect of replacing their best and brightest, they’ve begun to place a heavy emphasis on employee retention. Alongside the usual best practices for enticing top performers to remain onboard—competitive salary, career advancement opportunities, employee engagement, perks, etc.—managers are increasingly employing a new retention strategy: the “stay interview.”

The Stay Interview
What’s a stay interview? Given its name, one might imagine a desperate manager alone in a conference room pleading with her top employee who has just resigned to remain with the company. It’s not really as dramatic as that, however. A stay interview is a one-to-one interview between a manager and a valued employee, but it’s initiated by the employer, not the employee, and is unrelated to an employee’s having given notice. The goal of a stay interview is to learn the key factors that determine whether an employee ultimately decides to stay with, or leave, the company.

During a typical stay interview, the manager will ask the employee structured, yet open-ended questions in a conversational and casual tone. By conducting the stay interview, the manager is hoping to discover several things about a top-performing employee’s mindset toward the company, including:

  • Any recent frustrations the employee has encountered that have negatively affected their job outlook
  • How they view their role, and their future with the company
  • Areas they feel management can improve in, and better support them in their role

As top performers are generally secure in their job status, managers who conduct stay interviews have consistently found that interviewees are excited that the organization is interested in them long-term, and that it took the time and effort to check in with them.

Questions to Ask
A typical stay interview consists of an opening, a series of questions, and a close. The interview can typically be wrapped up in 30 minutes or less, and is designed to give the manager insight into the employee’s job-related thinking. The stay interview might open something like this:

“I appreciate you taking the time to sit down and have this discussion with me. As one of our most valued employees and top performers, I’d like to pose some informal questions that will help us understand the factors that will lead you to enjoy your current role, be fulfilled at work, and ultimately stay with us.”

The questions should be open-ended, and encourage the employee to express their true feelings and opinions. Avoid salary-related questions. Also, the manager should be taking notes during the interview. Sample questions could include:

  • What factors make you look forward to coming to work each day?
  • If there were one or two things you could change about your job, what would they be?
  • What talents do you have that you feel are being underutilized in your current role?
  • What feedback would you like to receive about your job performance that you feel you are not receiving?
  • In what ways can we support you in achieving more work-life balance?
  • What opportunities for growth or career advancement have you thought about and/or would like to explore here?
  • What factors can facilitate you doing your best work?
  • What can I as a manager do to better support you?
  • What factors would tempt you to leave?

The close should be a simple recap of what the manager learned during the interview, along the lines of: “Allow me to summarize the reasons you gave for why you would stay with the company, as well as the factors that might cause you to leave. Next, let’s put together a plan to make this an awesome place for you to continue to work.”

The stay interview has proven to be a powerful engagement tool for gaining insight into what makes your top performers want to stay with, or leave, your company. It’s also flattering that management values them so highly that they would sit down with, and interview them toward keeping them in their current role. And as long as management uses the information wisely, and in turn improves the employee’s work experience, the company gives itself the best chance to keep their best people on board for the long haul.

Staying Power: How to Retain Your Best People

Alan A. Ayers, MBA, MAcc

President of Experity Networks and is Practice Management Editor of The Journal of Urgent Care Medicine
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