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Stay Interviews Are One Way to Help Improve Employee Retention

Talent acquisition has been front and centre in conversations about today’s employee-driven labour market. But attracting top talent is only part of the equation. Companies looking to stay ahead in today’s competitive market also need to have a comprehensive retention strategy in place.

The costs of employee turnover can be high (according to one article at Psychometrics.com, up to 20% of salary for mid-level employees and as high as 213% of salary for C-Suite leaders) making a strong retention strategy vital.

Tools for employee retention

In our retained executive search clients program, we’ve found that regular and transparent communication, pulse surveys, learning and development plans, total rewards packages, and meaningful recognition are now table stakes for any employee retention strategy. Companies looking to stand out from the crowd are adding to their retention toolkits – flexible work schedules, work from anywhere policies, expanded benefits programs and more.

One tactic that has grown in popularity is the stay interview – it’s an important tool that competitive companies today are using to measure employee engagement and improve employee retention.

Stay interviews let leaders:

  1. determine how their team is feeling about the company and its culture,
  2. get a sense for how individuals feel about their role, their impact on the company and its goals, and whether they have the tools they need to be successful,
  3. talk with their team members about road blocks and challenges, and to identify any issues that may cause a high performer to self-select out of their role or out of the company, and
  4. recognize and celebrate successes, and demonstrate to team members that their leaders want to help them excel.

Conducting a successful stay interview

Successful stay interviews start with open communication. Make sure your team members understand the purpose of your conversation in advance, and encourage them to be open and honest in their answers. You’ll also want to make sure they understand how feedback will be used and what next steps will be (if any).

Here are 10 stay interview questions that can help you kick-start your conversation:

  • What do you look forward to at work every day?
  • What makes you feel proud to work here?
  • What do you like least about working here?
  • What keeps you working here?
  • What skills and strengths do you have that are not being fully utilized here?
  • What do you think about how employees are recognized and valued here?
  • How do you like to be recognized?
  • If you could change one thing about your job, team, or company, what would it be?
  • What might tempt you to leave?
  • What can I/we do to make your experience here better?


Stay interviews help leaders put their people – and culture – first. They’re an excellent tool to support employee recognition and, just as importantly, employee retention.

Finding it difficult to recruit and retain top talent in today’s work environment? DRiWaterstone Human Capital can help. Book a meeting with our team to talk about your needs.

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By Lyn Currie

There’s a new talent acquisition landscape in place, thanks in large part to the global pandemic that has changed the ways we work – and look at work – over the past two years. So, what can leaders do to attract the best talent to their organizations in today’s market? How do you attract leaders who will help you to ignite your culture and propel your growth?

  • Create a strong Employee Value Proposition (EVP)

In each of our businesses, we only have one time to make a great first impression. Do you know, and can you articulate, your purpose and the values of your organization? Is it crisp and clear? Is it authentic? Do you know how your recruiting team is describing your culture to candidates?

Many organizations do a wonderful job at creating a multi-step recruitment process where candidates meet various people within the organization, but if each touch point isn’t working to help to illuminate your culture for candidates, and if your messaging isn’t clear, consistent and, most importantly true, you’re missing an opportunity. Remember, in today’s market, it’s likely that each of your candidates is also talking to three or four other organizations – a strong, clear and consistent EVP helps you differentiate yourself from your competitors and put your best foot forward!

Candidates are looking for purpose and meaning. They are looking for investment in learning and development. They are looking to make an impact.  Ask yourself if your company’s EVP addresses those priorities.

  • Leverage the power of your Chief People Officer (CPO)

The thinking is this: if people and culture is the foundation of your business, and if they are the fuel to propel your growth, then your people and culture leader is at the right hand of the CEO - at the same level of importance as the CFO.

We know organizations that value culture are making this shift, and they are recognizing that their CPO candidates are as sophisticated in business strategy as they are in people strategy. (We also know that CPO candidates are in the market for CEOs who sees them as a business partner and integral part of the growth strategy of your organization, not as just someone to manage the people side of the business.)

In addition to giving CPOs a seat at the leadership table, organizations today are asking more of their people leaders. Through the Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures Award submission process, Waterstone Human Capital has observed that organizations are investing significantly more in learning and development programs. Candidates are asking – often in the first interview – how organizations will invest in their training and career development. Best-in-class organizations are putting the employee in the driver’s seat when it comes to defining their career path – and putting the onus on the people and culture team to create robust programs that inspire continuous learning, and that empower employees to participate in charting their own course. This has also led to an increased emphasis on tools and technology to measure the success of people and culture programs – all driven through the CPO and their teams.

  • Understand the desired key behaviours of your top performers

To attract the best talent to your organization, it's a worthwhile activity to start with charting the key behaviours of your current top performers, and how you assess for those behaviours in your recruitment process.  When you interview candidates, do you focus on experience, technical skills, and certifications? All these are important, but research suggests that behaviours that align to your values are a far stronger indicator of success.

Leaders need to take the time to get a clear understanding of what behaviors make a top performer in their organization, then ask: “How am I evaluating for these behaviors when I meet candidates?” It is not only up to the people and culture team to vet this – it’s up to all leaders.

  • Have a strategic focus on diversity, equity and inclusion

Putting a strategic focus on diversity adds to your culture. It speaks to who you are as an organization and the values that define you.

At DRiWaterstone Human Capital, we were early adopters of the idea that candidates should be evaluated through the lens of three components – experience, leadership qualities, and “culture fit”. As we continue to evolve, we no longer focus on culture fit, but rather look to “culture add” – those qualities that can help strengthen your company’s values and culture.

A culture transformation is often a multi-year journey, but a strategic focus on diversity, equity and inclusion is a great first step. Start by asking: “How can this person, with their diversity of experiences add to the culture? How can they contribute to, or even lead, the organization’s culture transformation?”

  • Total Rewards

No discussion around talent acquisition would be complete without looking at the total rewards package being offered. At DRiWaterstone, our research has shown that while money is one of the considerations when candidates are choosing to join a new organization, it is consistently ranking as low as number three on candidates’ lists of priorities (behind culture/purpose and learning and development opportunities).

When candidates consider the total rewards package, they are not only thinking about a base salary plus bonus. Instead, they’re looking for:

  • opportunities for training (both internally and externally);
  • flexibility (e.g., a hybrid work environment, flexibility around the hours of work, unlimited vacation policies);
  • culture, meaning, and connectedness.

Don’t underestimate the value of corporate social responsibility programs, internal committees, education allotments, and more when assessing and promoting your total rewards package.

Attracting talent who will be both high performers and future culture leaders within your organization takes work – but with the right tools and the proper strategic focus, it can be done.

Find out more about attracting talent who add to your culture and help drive success – contact DRiWaterstone’s Executive Search team today and schedule a 30-minute consultation.

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