Take a “Triple R” Approach to Stay Interviews

Stay interviews are always important, but they are a strategic mandate in the middle of the Great Resignation. Companies can ill afford to lose their best people in such a turbulent time.

The trouble is, stay conversations are often depicted in the media as a last-ditch effort to keep a person from leaving. And that rarely works.

When someone is about to walk out the door, it’s usually far too late for a stay conversation to make a difference. At that point, the person has already made their decision and mentally moved on to the new opportunity. The train has left the station. There is little you can do at this stage of the game to change their minds.

Stay conversations need to be rethought. Here’s how we approach them.

Stay Conversations Are Proactive, not Reactive

Many companies focus on exit interviews and ask “Why did you decide to leave?” They then try to take those learnings and change. That’s of value, but I think having proactive stay conversations is much more important. When you do, you’ll spot yellow and red flags. They will give you the time to make the needed changes to not only keep your team happily intact but also support the work environment evolution for all.

What does a proactive approach look like? It means making stay conversations a regular agenda item during one-on-one conversations.

Set the Context

Before we at Blanchard get into the specifics of how someone is feeling about their work, we want to learn if they love our business and industry. To find out, we’ll ask them questions such as:

  • Do you have a passion for leadership development?
  • Do you have faith in our company and its leadership?
  • Do you believe in our mission?

By asking these kinds of questions, we can determine if someone is aligned with where the business is going. Once we’ve determined this, then we’ll discuss how they are feeling.

Reflect, Reconnect, and Revisit Conversations

Reflect, Reconnect, and Revisit conversations (Triple R) are our approach to stay conversations. A leader has this conversation with their team members separately several times a year. Our goal is to learn from individuals why they have stayed at Blanchard and what they need to continue to stay.

 A company is only as good as the people who work there. Any given individual creates an impact. When people leave, they take with them their institutional knowledge and skills; so someone leaving is a potentially damaging event. That’s why Triple R conversations are mission critical.

Here are some of the questions we ask during Triple R conversations:

  • Why have you stayed?
  • What has been your best day at work you’ve had in the past three months?
  • What would you do more of if you could?
  • What might lure you away?
  • What would make your life easier here?
  • Are you feeling challenged?
  • What would make your job more satisfying?
  • What do you want to be doing five years from now?
  • What about your job wants you to want to hit the snooze alarm and take the day off?

Triple R Conversations and Trust

Triple R conversations only work if there is trust between a leader and their people. If Triple R conversations are to be meaningful, the dialogue must be thoughtful and authentic, which requires a relationship built on trust. It’s not a casual “How are you doing?” conversation. The goal is to better understand each individual’s mindset and needs so that as a company you can better support them.

In contrast to stereotypical stay conversations, Triple R conversations give you the chance to pivot and change mindsets. Honest dialogue is what matters.

Change Should Follow

The key to effective Triple R conversations is that the person who shared must see some change as a result. Otherwise, they’re likely to think “Why did they bother to ask me? They obviously didn’t care because nothing is changing.”

Employee trust is destroyed when this happens. Any future conversations will feel like a superficial exercise. Leaders should act on what they learn and let people know their opinions are valued.

And People Change

We have many employees who’ve been with us for decades. We’re honored that they have chosen to make their career at Blanchard. We’re also mindful that the person we hired 15 or 20 years ago may now have very different values and needs.

We make a special effort to understand why they’ve stayed and what will keep them happy here. We don’t want to take them or their evolution for granted.

Conversations with these people include discovering if they have any unmet needs. Here are some questions we ask:

  • What are your goals for the future?
  • Are you evolving in the direction that interests you?
  • Where would you like to grow?
  • What feeds you?
  • What energizes you?
  • Are you feeling challenged?
  • Are you feeling trusted and respected?

These are win-win conversations. When we respond to their needs, even our most tenured people feel valued and recommit to our mission.

Stay Conversations the Right Way

Make stay conversations a regular event. Find out what a person is really feeling and then address their needs. Do this and you’ll reduce turnover—and have a happier workforce.

About the Author

Kristin Brookins Costello

Kristin Brookins Costello is the Chief Human Resources Officer at The Ken Blanchard Companies®. She is responsible for the strategic planning, development, and implementation of Blanchard’s people strategies and its overall human capital experience. As the leader of the Human Resources, Internal Communications, and Learning & Development functions, Kristin works to drive people initiatives related to organizational performance that shape a strong culture of results, continuous improvement, and growth.

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