The Great Resignation of 2021: The Stay Interview – An Employee Retention Tool

Employers continue to grapple with the avalanche of legal and operational issues that arose in 2021. A global pandemic proved to be only the beginning, as major supply chain disruptions, emergency closures, telework and the most recently revived OSHA vaccine mandates (along with now facing the difficult decision to terminate productive employees who do not comply with the mandate(s)) continue to challenge employers throughout the United States. Employees are resigning from positions at an unprecedented rate throughout the country. This phenomenon – the “Great Resignation” – has been brought on by several factors including pandemic burnout, a reluctance to return to the physical workplace and employees reevaluating their personal and professional goals. To retain talent, employers are reviving the “Stay Interview.”

Stay interviews are gaining in popularity as one of the many tools employers are utilizing to retain talent. Unlike a hiring interview where the goal is to determine whether a candidate is a good fit, or an exit interview where the goal is to learn the root cause for an employee’s decision to leave, a stay interview is intended to explore what it takes to keep an employee. They focus on current employees that, as far as the employer knows, have not yet developed a reason to leave.  Stay interviews are typically 1-to-1 meetings between managers and their employees to discuss what’s going well, what’s not going well, and which changes the employee, manager or organization could make to strengthen the relationship. These meetings require a foundation of trust between the employee and their manager and organization, and they are most effective if they are recurring, not one-off, conversations. In these meetings, employers should focus not only on the job but also on the individuals’ professional and life goals.

Stay interviews should be implemented and conducted in accordance with all applicable employment laws and interview best practices. For example, individuals that conduct interviews should be fully trained. As with other interviews, stay interview questions are subject to certain legal limitations and there is a laundry list of questions that should not be asked. Statements that undermine the “at-will” nature of the employment relationship should be also avoided. Individuals who conduct the interview should also be trained to identify information that may rise to the level of an employee complaint that requires further action, such as an interim remedial measure or an investigation. Employers should also maintain a zero-tolerance policy against retaliation and that policy should be enforced with respect to stay interviews.

For assistance with your interview policies and practices, or with any other labor and employment law needs, please contact George Morrison (morrisong@whiteandwilliams.com, 610.782.4911) or another member of our Labor and Employment Group.

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