Staff Retention: Stay Interviews

Posted: Mar 20, 2014
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As a manager, I've attended many CEs, lectures, and conferences to try to be a better, more efficient manager. Among the topics of these were negligent employees. We focused on when and how to discipline and when and how to terminate. After these meeting finished, many mangers stuck around to share their experiences of that one horrible employee that they could never seem to be rid of or that terrible exit interview where they were ripped apart.

Through all these talks, I felt something was overlooked: The focus on the good. That amazing employee that shines brighter than the rest. That employee that goes above and beyond, that moves with a sense of urgency, that gets along with the whole staff, and most importantly, the one that clients can’t get enough of. That’s when I heard the term "stay interview".

Pearl Animal Hospital employees with a patient.

Simply put, a stay interview is the opposite of an exit interview. It’s asking your valued employees why they choose to stay at their job.

As the saying goes, “You can learn a lot if you just ask.”

We value all of our employees. The "Super Star" who does it all, the "I’m Not a Morning Person" receptionist, and the "I Hate People, But Love Animals" technician. But why do they value us as their employer?

Our clinic started doing stay interviews a few years ago with great success. We take each employee out a couple times a year, to get coffee (I think it’s important to leave the clinic grounds – you get a different, more relaxed employee off-grounds) and have an honest, candid conversation. This is not a time for reprimand, reviewing performance, or anything else but the employee’s time to share what’s on their mind.

I usually start the conversation with, “How are things at the clinic going for you?” This is usually all I need to say. The rest of the time I just listen. I listen to the good, the bad, and the ugly. I always finish by saying, “What can I do to keep you?”

Answers vary from, “I need a new clipboard,” to “I would like my own set of post-it notes,” to “I would like Tuesday afternoons off for my family.” But most commonly I hear, “I need to continue to be valued.”

My follow up questions is always, “How will you best feel valued?” You will be amazed at the array of answers you will get!

Pearl Animal Hospital staff at a bowling alley event.

Remember, any feedback is good feedback. It’s a jumping off point for you, as their manager, to make the clinic a good place for them to be. A place where they want to stay.

Obviously there are limitations. We can’t give everyone the schedule they want, their own locker, new scrubs every month. But we can give support and a compassionate ear. I can be there for them when they have those days (and boy do we have those days in this business!) and when they just want to be heard.

Stay interviews provide a chance to connect individually with employees and remember why we love them and hired them in the first place. We remind ourselves to do our best to make a good working environment for them. After all, they are still here, aren’t they? Let’s keep it that way.


Cheryl Latta, Pearl Animal Hospital Manager, with the staff.