Student Affairs Stay Interviews

Reduce turnover, increase job satisfaction, and build trust with Stay Interviews

UGA Student Affairs (UGA SA) encourages engagement conversations between supervisors and their high performing employees on a regular basis – at least once a year – to identify the aspects of the organization and job responsibilities that are influencing the employee to stay in their current position, and to explore ways to mitigate any concerns that may cause the employee to consider leaving.

Stay Interviews are employee-centered conversations — typically covering about five main questions in about 30 minutes — that are designed to be candid, collaborative, open, and trust building.

The labor market has changed dramatically over the past few years and employees are seeking clarity on their relationships with their employer and their career. This reinforces the need for our division to adopt Stay Interviews into our routine culture.

These are structured conversations to collect data on the employee’s experience, perceptions, and expectations. Stay Interviews require supervisors to ask, actively listen, consider, and then follow up on an employee’s needs. The conversations should not be focused on the employee’s performance or pay. Stay interviews are less about the organization evaluating the employee and more about the employee evaluating the organization. A best practice is for supervisors to conduct Stay Interviews with their supervisees once a year, separate from conversations about performance.

Stay Interviews can provide the following benefits, and more:

  • Reduce turnover
  • Increase retention of employees from underrepresented groups
  • Build trust
  • Identify and solve issues before they become problems

Stay Interviews offer lasting advantages when the core features are thoughtfully implemented, including:

  • Employees hear directly from their supervisor that they care and want them to stay and grow with the institution. The supervisor-employee bond is critical to improving engagement and retention, and supervisors deliver clear messages during the Stay Interview(s) that each employee is important for the division’s success and that supervisors want them to stay.
  • Supervisors further accept retention and engagement within their sphere of responsibility. Combining Stay Interviews with retention goals and other initiatives results in a clear understanding that responsibility for retention and engagement lies with individual supervisors, who are in the best position to influence and drive improvements.
  • Employees are more likely to accept responsibility for staying. Stay Interviews require supervisors to ask, listen, consider and then follow up on employees’ requests. This builds a new form of connection that causes employees to not only stay longer but also to proactively approach their supervisors with a concern in the future before they resort to looking for another job.
  • Stay interviews build trust. Supervisors who ask, listen, act, and communicate honestly strengthen trust with their employees, the absolute most important supervisory skill for increasing engagement and retention.

A best practice is for supervisors to conduct Stay Interviews with all of their supervisees once a year, separate from conversations about performance.

  • Start small. Focus on your long-term, high performers, and high potential employees to begin with. 
  • Make stay interviews a regular activity. Try to conduct a Stay Interview at least once a year.
  • Schedule enough time. Typically, a Stay Interview lasts 30 – no more than 45 – minutes. 
  • Structure the interview. Utilize the Stay Interview Template so that each meeting follows the same structure and each employee gets asked the same (*relevant*) questions. 
  • Gather all answers in the same place. Eventually, the information gathered during the stay interviews will have to be analyzed in order to (potentially) plan action.
  • Summarize. Before wrapping up the interview, supervisors should summarize the employee’s key reasons to stay or leave to avoid misunderstandings (you can add this to your Stay Interview Template so you won’t forget).  
  • Look for patterns and trends. Do you detect any reasons why employees stay or leave multiple times? Identify these. This will help you find ways to strengthen the positive and reduce the negative factors.
  • Act! An exclamation point is in order here. Stay interviews can be instrumental in keeping your employees happy, increasing retention and engagement. But, and this is a big but, only if you take their feedback seriously and act when necessary. Use the Stay Plan Template for accountability.

Ideally Stay Interviews occur once a year, during the summer break between semesters. Of course, if this is not convenient for the unit, a better time may be identified.

  • Not for new employees. It doesn’t make much sense to conduct a Stay Interview with an employee that just started working for your unit; they’re not fully settled into their role and the institution yet. However, supervisors should be checking in with new employees regularly.
  • Not as part of quarterly performance meetings. Don’t add the Stay Interview to employees’ performance reviews or include them as part of the supervisory check-ins. Supervisors need to conduct them as a separate activity.
  • Cluster Stay Interviews. Try to schedule all Stay Interviews within a relatively short period of time. This will allow supervisors to gather all the feedback and, if necessary, act upon it without leaving it unaddressed for too long. It’s possible that one action may address multiple employees’ concerns – making it a(n efficient) win for all!

Use the resources below to structure Stay Interviews within your respective unit(s):

For additional support with Stay Interviews, reach out to Talent Management directly.