Workplace “Stay” Strategies

Workplace stay strategies are developed by employers to retain valued employees.

We all know about workplace exit interviews. Some of us have probably experienced an exit interview firsthand. And, as career practitioners, many of us have coached clients to develop workplace exit strategies as they prepare to make their next career move. But have you heard about workplace “stay” strategies? A workplace stay strategy refers to practices and initiatives implemented by an employer to retain high-value employees. The goal of a stay strategy is to create happy, fulfilled, and productive employees who want to stick with the company for the long term. The good news is that even if our clients don’t work for an employer with a stay strategy, it’s fairly easy for them to develop one for themselves.

Retention Strategies vs. Stay Strategies

You may be thinking, “Isn’t a stay strategy just another name for a retention strategy?” The short answer to this question is “no.”

A retention strategy is a program that is ideally acted on every day to keep employees from considering leaving. This strategy involves things such as giving regular pay raises, recognizing achievements, and/or providing additional training and professional development.

A stay strategy is developed and deployed in two scenarios. The first scenario involves conducting regular stay interviews with valued, top-performing employees. The goal of stay interviews is to understand what employees want, what they like, and what they’d like to change. The second prong of a stay strategy involves a conversation — and negotiation — with a star employee who has unexpectedly announced they’re quitting. The goal here is an intervention; a last-ditch effort to win the employee back.

Forward-Thinking Employers are Implementing Stay Strategies

The Stay Interview

According to the Toronto Star, “Some companies have been hosting such meetings for years, but many more adopted the practice over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic as the health crisis caused workers to rethink their careers or seek more flexibility, advancement, or support from their employers.”

The three main differences between an exit interview and a stay interview are that, with a stay interview, the employer learns why employees remain with them, it’s a proactive measure, and it’s conversational and friendly, as opposed to the formal, often awkward and uncomfortable, exit interview.

Stay interviews are typically conducted only with those employees considered most valuable, not all team members. They are often scheduled quarterly, but the timing can be set so that it makes sense for both the interviewer and the interviewee. The interview helps the best employees understand that their loyalty is seen and appreciated, that more than just their performance is valued, and that the company is open to making changes that would bring them even more job satisfaction. Benefits to the employer are that they’ll discover early warning signs that a key player needs more support or direction. And they’ll learn about ways to retain employees in whom significant time and resources have been invested.

There are many variations on the questions employees are asked in stay interviews, but often they follow this pattern;

  • What is your favourite part about working here?
  • What do you like least about working here?
  • What do you think we could do better?
  • Have you ever thought about leaving the company?
  • Do you enjoy your work?
  • What thing(s) make your job satisfying?
  • Are you being given clear direction/goals?
  • Do your leaders recognize your efforts?

The Stay Intervention

It may be too late by the time a star employee announces their intention to leave, but, if they have not yet committed to the new opportunity, there are some things that can be done to try to change the individual’s mind. This is when a stay “intervention” might jump into action. The employer can:

  • Ask for a meeting in a familiar, but comfortable, location, such as a favourite coffee shop.
  • Find out why the person is leaving. Listen more than talk and try to discover the employee’s concern(s) and hopes for their future.
  • Engage the employee in joint problem-solving; how can the two parties collaborate to turn the situation around? Does the top performer feel they should be earning more money? Do they require more flexibility? Are professional development opportunities what they seek?

A stay intervention won’t always work out, but if the employer has offered all they’re able to and their star still decides to leave, the resignation should be accepted gracefully. By wishing the person well, the employer can maintain a strong long-term relationship with someone who may, one day, hopefully, want to return to their organization.

“Do-it-Yourself” Stay Strategies

All is not lost if a company doesn’t have a workplace stay strategy in place! A star employee can take proactive steps to create their own stay strategy; one that will keep them motivated, engaged, effective, and productive. Here are some actions they can consider:

  1. Conduct Self-assessment: Begin by reflecting on their career goals, values, and what motivates them in the workplace. What do they enjoy most about their current job?  What areas would they like to further develop?
  2. Communicate Aspirations: Schedule a meeting with the boss to discuss career goals. Be open and honest about their desire to grow within the company and seek opportunities for advancement.
  3. Embrace Continuous Learning and Development: Take advantage of learning and development opportunities offered by the company. Attend training programs, workshops, or conferences relevant to their field. Seek out mentors or coaches who can provide guidance and support in their professional growth.
  4. Network: Build relationships within and outside their organization. Attend industry events, join professional associations, and engage with colleagues from different departments. Networking can open doors to new opportunities, collaborations, and a broader perspective on their industry.
  5. Take on New Challenges: Seek out additional responsibilities or projects that align with their interests and showcase their skills. Volunteer for cross-functional teams or initiatives that allow them to expand your knowledge and demonstrate abilities beyond their current role.
  6. Share Successes: Regularly communicate accomplishments with their manager and team members. This can reinforce their value and highlight the positive impact they’re having on the organization.
  7. Foster Relationships: Build positive relationships with colleagues and leaders. Be a team player, offer support, and collaborate effectively. Strong relationships can enhance job satisfaction and create a supportive network within the workplace.
  8. Balance Work and Life: Strive for a healthy work-life balance that aligns with their personal priorities. Set boundaries, practice self-care, and engage in activities outside of work that bring fulfillment and reduce stress.
  9. Stay Informed: Keep updated on industry trends, innovations, and changes that may impact their field. This knowledge positions the employee as a valuable asset to the company and ensures that they remain relevant and adaptable.
  10. Request Regular Stay Interviews: Not all employers and HR departments know about proactive stay interviews. A valued, trusted employee can introduce them to the practice, citing benefits such as the strengthening of employer-employee relationships, the identification of risks to retention, and the opportunity to inform talent management strategies and engagement initiatives that will support the long-term commitment of employees.

Creating a personal workplace stay strategy involves individuals – our clients – proactively managing their own careers and taking ownership of their professional development. By actively seeking growth opportunities, showcasing their value, and fostering positive, collaborative relationships with peers and company leaders, they can increase job satisfaction and create a path for long-term success within their organization.

Cathy Milton has been a member of CPC for 10 years now, and holds MCRS, MCIS, MCCS, MCES, and MCWS designations. She is a member of the board of CPC and the association’s Compliance Director. When she’s not working, Cathy enjoys cooking, sailing in summer, and taking care of her pets. 

Portions of this article include content modified from text generated by AI.

Spread the love
Categories: ,
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Employers utilize Retention and Stay strategies to retain top talent. It’s costly when individuals leave!

The notion of employee taking charge of their careers and initiating a DIY Stay Strategy is brilliant.