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Why Do You Stay? What Keeps You Here? How to Prevent an Early Exit

27 Apr


What are “stay conversations,” and why do they matter? How do you approach them? What should you say? While the questions pile up and the approach to address them varies, the outcomes are abundant. If done correctly, these conversations can be incredibly effective. 

“Stay conversations” are intentional discourse to retain talent, engage employees, hear more ideas, understand the succession plan, and, most importantly, understand why people stay and what keeps them here. This one structured conversation helps organizations and leaders to understand what they are doing well and where there are opportunities to pivot. 

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If there is one sentiment you take away, let it be this: The exit interview is too late.

Seeking to understand sooner is a decisive step. The powerful words “tell me more,” delivered with a smile, can unlock critical information you can use to shape the company culture and employee/customer/client experiences.

  • Stay interviews are an effective way to dig past the roses, stems, and brush and uncover the roots. Discover the aspects of your employee experience that could be pushing or pulling your employees. 
  • Armed with the right data, you can take action to fix the factors driving turnover or disengagement and improve the employee experience.
  • Building trust and loyalty takes care, thought, and action. It’s not just about fulfilling promises but creating a safe place for employees to be vulnerable. There is comfort for all involved parties to know that information or feelings shared won’t be used against them.   

Structure, Safety, Inquisitive, Listen, Act

Cultivating the Right Environment:

  • Conversations should not morph into telling employees ways they can perform better. This is not a performance conversation. 
  • Be ready to listen and actively explore. Gentle investigation requires listening carefully to easily identify the keywords and messages to pursue. 
  • Leaders must bring an open mind, take notes and be mindful of their responses. “Why not? Let’s frame this out a little more” is a great response to the ideas you are hearing. “We don’t do that here” or “That is not our company focus” may shut someone down.
  • Leaders must be on board. Leaders represent the culture and play a huge part in creating. Start by using, or encouraging leaders to use, proper pronouns like “we” and “I,” rather than separating themselves from the company by blaming those at higher levels and using “they.” Employees will feel like they don’t have an advocate in their corner and that their leader isn’t doing something with their sentiments. 

When Actively Listening: 
Use the rule of thumb to listen 80% of the time: 

• Being Fully Present in the Conversation

• Showing Interest by Practicing Good Eye Contact

• Noticing (and Using) Non-verbal Cues

• Asking Open-ended Questions to Encourage Further Responses

• Paraphrasing and Reflecting 

• Listening to Understand Rather Than Respond

• Withholding Judgment and Advice

Taking Action Means… the Conversation More Than Just a Chat:
The most effective way to create accountability following the interviews is to create an action or stay plan. Leadership should communicate the action plan immediately following the interviews to demonstrate and keep momentum. Best practices of action plans include:

  • Identify the top three action items. Mutually ensure the agreed-upon action items are both realistic and reasonable.
  • Build an action plan for each item with associated timelines for each step.
  • Recap 
  • Follow up with employees to gauge whether the implemented changes have been effective and executed to meet their expectations.  
  • Don’t “ghost” your employee. Keep the conversation alive and keep them aware of the progress.

The right time to have a stay conversation is anywhere in the employee lifecycle or before, during, and after, meaning milestones, actions, or activities. Employees experience your company culture in different ways throughout their career journey within your organization, including: 

  • Recruitment and Onboarding
  • Employee Development
  • Company Policy
  • Job Opportunities
  • Employee Leadership Relationship
  • Employee Development
  • Resources, Tools, and Spending 
  • Leadership Development
  • Communication
  • Community Involvement
  • Customer Experiences

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An opportunity to employee sentiments about how they feel about the events above is valuable to the organization’s leaders, who can help create and foster the employee experiences and give meaningful reasons for employees to stay and belong to the purpose!

Looking to build stay conversations as part of your regular strategic business strategies? From leadership and mentorship coaching, employee engagement, organizational development, compensation analysis, and everything in between. Contact the Client Development team to learn more! 

Abraham Gonzales-Pollick, Vice President of Client Development
HR and Organizational Strategy and Design, Employee Engagement, Leadership, and Client Service

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