Stay Interviews: A Tool to Overcome Your Biggest Staffing Challenges

For many restoration companies out there, employee staffing is your topmost concern. That’s nothing new. I remember having staffing discussions with restoration business owners nine years ago when I got into the industry. Back then companies were competing for employees with bigger local contractors or the franchise down the street. Today you compete with Amazon, companies that allow employees to work from home, and the realization that there are plenty of opportunities with great companies in other industries that don’t require sucking sewer water out of a stranger’s basement at 2:00 in the morning. Hiring right now is not only a nightmare, it’s your nightmare.

Because finding great employees is proving next to impossible, employee retention is now more critical than ever. The Center for American Progress says the cost for employee turnover for anyone making under $75,000 is 20% of their yearly salary, while replacing highly skilled workers can be as high as 213%. Let that sink in.

A recent Harris Poll conducted by CNBC and Catalyst found that half of all employees want to make a career change. And according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4 million Americans are quitting their jobs every month during what is being termed “The Great Resignation.” It’s not hard to see that we are in the middle of an employee-driven workforce and change is not expected any time soon.

So what can you do to improve employee retention? Ask your employees.

You ask your customers all the time what you can do to earn more of their business. How about asking your employees what you can do to ensure they remain with your company and stay productive by conducting stay interviews.

While exit interviews help you identify areas that may have gone wrong after the fact, stay interviews address needs right away before the employee decides to jump ship. A stay interview is typically done between a manager and their direct report and is designed to learn what keeps an employee working for the company and what can be done to improve the employee’s experience and productivity. Done correctly, stay interviews:

  • build trust between an employee and their employer.
  • open and improve valuable lines of communication.
  • gauge employee satisfaction.
  • help the employee feel heard and appreciated.
  • generate new ideas to improve the company’s culture, performance, and profitability.

How To Conduct a Stay Interview

Unlike a hiring or exit interview where rapid-fire questions might be used to point out weaknesses, it is recommended that a stay interview be done casually, in the hope that the employee will open up and give honest answers if they feel comfortable.

Start out by explaining the purpose of the interview; that it’s for the employer to learn what they are doing right and where they can improve in supporting the employee. Let them know there are no repercussions for any of their answers, that everything will be held in strict confidence, and nothing will be tied to their performance evaluations or compensation.

Start out with an easy question to break the ice and gradually work up to more challenging ones once you feel the employee is fully engaged and trusts what is happening. It is important to keep the interview a free-flowing discussion where both sides can ask questions and follow up on ideas. Managers must be vulnerable during this discussion or the employee will not be. Never trivialize an employee’s concern or suggestion or become defensive. This is a trust-building exercise and if you are sincere in wanting to walk away with genuine ideas or learn about potential problems, you must demonstrate your sincerity.

Stay interviews should last approximately 30 minutes. When it is time to wrap up, be sure to let the employee know you appreciated their time and the discussion, then summarize their feedback and relay the next steps.

When To Conduct a Stay Interview

Stay interviews for new employees should be conducted twice within their first six months, since new employees are statistically the most likely to quit and may feel overwhelmed as they are adjusting to your company.

Established employees should receive them once a year, six months prior to or after their performance review and any potential compensation boost. This will help to demonstrate that their answers are not linked in any way to those occurrences. If you can, try to do all established employee stay interviews within a two-week period so you are able to create consistency.

What to do After a Stay Interview

Once your stay interviews have been conducted, read through your notes, and carefully consider all the answers and suggestions. Look for patterns and identify employee trends that may be happening. Take the recommendations to your company’s management team and talk through which make the most sense to address. Determine what changes should take place to improve employee experiences and to increase the likelihood of improving employee retention.

If you go through the process of stay interviews and don’t act on any of the information your employees provided, it will be detrimental to your company. Your employees will know you are not serious about making improvements or supporting them, and they will be less likely to trust you in the future or be open with potentially important suggestions. Publicly recognize any employee who had an exceptional idea for the company and privately recognize any employee who shared something personal that allowed you to have the insight needed to help them.

Questions to Ask During a Stay Interview

Remember to start off easy with questions that will gain trust and get the ball rolling. Consider the following:

  • What do you look forward to everyday when coming to work?
  • What is something you would tell a friend that you enjoy about working here?
  • What are some things this company is doing right to support you?

Once you feel confident that the employee is feeling comfortable and willing to share, ask a few more-challenging questions like:

  • How can we better support you?
  • What would make your job more satisfying?
  • Do you feel properly utilized in your current role?
  • Have there been any situations that made you consider leaving the company? If so, please tell me about them.
  • What would tempt you to leave the company?
  • What are some talents of yours that you are not able to use in your current role?
  • Do you feel you are receiving clear goals and directives?
  • How would you like to be recognized for your efforts?
  • If you were the owner for a day, what changes would you make?
  • What additional tools, technology, or training do you need?

I talk to a lot of restoration business owners daily from all over the country. Many of them feel that if they just had a better system, a new way of dealing with insurance companies, or magic bullet for hiring, they would be successful. It’s not true. There isn’t any of this. We work in an industry that uses the same equipment and training to meet the same standards and certifications. The only real differentiator you have versus your competition is your employees.

When you have good employees, you need to do everything you can to hold onto them and to show them they are valued. Right now, half of your workforce is considering leaving you. Take the time to demonstrate to each one that they are heard and appreciated as a person, not just an employee. Stay interviews help you gauge why your employees are staying or leaving and where you can improve your company. As Simon Sinek says, “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” Give them a reason to.

Jeff Jones

Jeff JonesJeff Jones is the Director of Sales and Marketing for Violand Management Associates (VMA), a highly respected consulting company in the restoration and cleaning industries. Jeff has a wide range of experience in professional sales and marketing involving all levels of decision makers. Through VMA, Jeff works with companies to find the right mix of programs and services to help them develop their people and their profits. To reach him, visit or call (800) 360-3513.

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