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  • Author:

  • June 26, 2015

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Leaders of organizations are unanimous that honest feedback from employees is critical to improving organizational culture and retaining valuable talent. The million dollar question teases – how does one collect such open and honest feedback?

Let us look at two powerful feedback mechanisms – the exit and stay interviews. Timing is the difference between the two. Exit interviews take place after the employee has officially resigned. Stay interviews are conducted periodically during the tenure of the person’s employment.

People ask, so which is better? Stay interviews or Exit interviews?


The truth is both. Both have their strengths. When done well in tandem, they pack a strong punch to positively impact employee retention.

Intent to stay is one of the most important questions in determining employee engagement. Stay interviews allow leaders to understand what employees value in their relationship with them, what they think is going well in the organization and what possible issues need to be addressed. And exit Interviews act as the microscopes to make stay Interviews meaningful.

Both organizations and employees have their own interests to look after. Employees will place their career happiness and success first when the time comes to do so. For organizations too, at different points in time, some employees will be more valuable than others. In conducting a meaningful stay interview or exit interview, organizations focus on both what is good for them and for their employees. With a good stay interview, they say in advance, “I want to know you because you are important and I don’t want to lose you.” With a good exit interview they say “I thank you for helping me so far and genuinely wish the best for you. I care to ask you if I can do something so you will stay, even if I did not do a good job earlier. And if I am too late now, I care to ask you for your candid views so that I can be a better place for others”.

The stay and exit interviews. Two different handshakes – and yet a very common goal. Data and some inconvenient truths provided by exit interviews may be converted into real and tangible patterns that recognize different needs of different employees.
When stay interviews are mirrored with this insight, they become highly credible in the eyes of employees.
Many organizations debate the question – should the stay and exit interviews be done in-house, or through an external expert?

Using good outside expert to conduct Exit and Stay interviews could be a great asset. They can infuse the confidence to your employee and train your managers and HR. They can guarantee objectivity and neutrality. The employees are more forthcoming to an outside expert. They will introduce the practice and provide learning customized to your culture and business goals. Also, you will get a more qualitative report than a tick in a box kind.

The most effective way to act on the insights would be to look at engagement and retention as business issues, not as HR initiatives. First, convert turnover and engagement to actual revenue rather than mere benchmarks. Second, create goals that hold business leaders and their HR Partners equally responsible in forecasting their employees’ stay and engagement levels. Finally, hold them accountable for their goals and forecasts.

Believe me, managers and HR will start finding more talent and capabilities in their members when they begin seeing their names on scorecards next to goals!

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