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Stay Interviews – How they can improve your staff recruitment and retention

June 14, 2021
6 minute read

Recruitment and staff retention in the early years sector is notoriously difficult. Early Years Leaders work tirelessly to provide a warm and friendly working environment, a great team culture and offer plenty of reasons for practitioners to stay in their role long term. But nonetheless, we find ourselves firefighting when practitioners leave with no notice and potential interviewees don’t even turn up!

Being proactive and managing your workforce is an essential role of the early years leader. Incorporating stay interviews into your retention and workforce development strategy can help you to truly understand what matters to your team members and what they’d like to see improve.  This information allows you the heads up, long before staff decide to move on.

So what is a Stay Interview?  

A stay interview is an opportunity to have an open discussion about a staff members job role. It facilitates a dialogue which uncovers the parts of the job role that keeps them in your setting, the reasons they stay with you, the parts the role they enjoy the most and their motives to remain in the organisation. It also helps to identify what may make your employee feel disengaged or move to an alternative role in another setting.

Stay interviews should be planned in regularly as part of your workforce strategy. They could be offered as a one to one discussion, or perhaps as an anonymous questionnaire, or maybe a mix of both. Ideally, stay interviews should be carried out twice a year if your staff retention is a problem. Once you have it nailed, yearly stay interviews would be perfect!

Think about it this way….if an exit interview gives you a chance to learn from past mistakes, the stay interview allows you to prevent the mistake happening and to avoid recurring problems. A stay interview is preferable to an exit interview because you will ask current employees why they continue to work for your organisation. At the exit interview, it’s often too late to identify and solve the problems for the exiting employee.

Your setting culture will have a huge impact on the effectiveness of stay interviews. In order for stay interviews to be useful, your team need to have trust that they can be open and honest with out fear of reprisal. Open, honest and transparent communication must be a core value across your organisation for stay interviews to be truly effective, so embed them in your leadership and allow you team to be honest in their feedback.

Stay interviews should form part of your workforce development strategy from the very beginning. When interviewing a new candidate and telling them about your setting, include information about Stay Interviews. This lets the candidate know that their voice is important in your setting, their feelings are recognised and their feedback is used to take action. Imagine the impact this will have on team culture as new practitioners and your current team feel valued, heard and understood. They will know that you want to ensure their job role is a long term opportunity and that you want to ensure their needs are met to enable this to happen.

What’s more, by identifying your employees pain points before they become huge challenges, you can take the necessary action to improve your work environment to retain great employees.

Carrying out a Stay Interview.

A stay interview should be carried out as a clear part of your workforce development strategy. Suddenly introducing them and then not doing anything with the information or forgetting to schedule follow up interviews is a pointless task and won’t give you the desired outcomes. Stay interviews should be scheduled regularly across the year, just like your appraisals and supervisions.

The stay interview process should be carried out by the leader of the setting. Having a trusting relationship with the leader or manager is essential and stay interviews should be conducted in a way which facilitates open discourse. Make a drink, close the office door and ensure a 'do not disturb' sign is placed in full view. Give your deputy manager the phone and focus on your employee for the interview. If you are to cultivate a culture of open and honest communication, your team need to know that their feedback is important and that you are ready to listen.

Stay interviews should be carried out with every member of the team. People leave for different reasons, so understanding this for individual staff members will make the information you gather so much more impactful. Include all of your team in this process.  I can hear the cogs turning as you wonder where on earth you are going to get the time to conduct stay interviews, but imagine how much time you will have when you’re no longer having to recruit, interview, read applications, conduct exit interviews and cover in rooms because you are short staffed!

The stay interview should last 20-30 minutes, depending on the feedback from the practitioner. It should be an opportunity for you as the leader to encourage the practitioner to share their thoughts on some set questions that will provide a platform for the discussion.  These questions will depend on your setting and the data you have from exit interviews and previous stay interviews. Typically, the questions might include:

  1. What do you look forward to the most when you’re on you way into the setting each day?
  2. What do you least look forward to each day when you come to work?
  3. Do you feel recognised and valued in your work?
  4. How would you rate your work life balance?
  5. How might we improve your work life balance…….

 Check out our editable stay interview document with 15 questions that you can use in your setting.

The results of a stay interview give you knowledge about what your setting can improve now and how you can retain your remaining, valued employees. When used strategically and fully embedded into your setting culture, stay interviews can have an extremely positive impact on your recruitment and retention as well as your team culture. The most important factor is to make good use of the feedback and information you gather. If you fail to act on the information your team give you, your team will lose faith and confidence in the process and the value you could create will be lost.

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