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Industry Insights Blog

A Business Case for Stay Interviews

Carol Crawford

by: Carol Crawford

Stay interview: A way for law firm leaders and managers to directly solicit feedback from their most talented people on their satisfaction level and why they continue to stay with the organization

The players: Developing an effective, integrated engagement strategy requires leadership, skillful collaboration, influence, and thoughtful input from all stakeholders across the firm. 

  • Human resources, professional development, recruiting (however your firm defines the internal team leading your firm’s engagement and retention strategy) – to put a structure in place to have these conversations and possibly participate in them
  • Firm leaders/stakeholders – to understand the value of stay interviews, support its practice, and consider the feedback
  • Managers – to conduct the conversations, liaise with decision-makers and employees, and implement constructive changes on the ground
  • Talented employees – to provide candid and thoughtful feedback

When executed correctly, stay interviews have the potential to help law firms retain their most talented professionals, and understand how to use them at their best and highest potential. Considering the future return on investment and competitive advantage of retaining your top people, it’s valuable to understand 1) how to engage in these conversations and 2) how to incorporate this feedback into your firm’s engagement strategies.

Many organizations continue to ask people their reason(s) for leaving during exit interviews, but don't make a concerted effort to figure out why talented people stay. It’s vital that the process is a thoughtful one, with support from the top down, and that represents the culture and engagement that your firm seeks. It’s also important to have some structure in place for these conversations so that the process can be repeated regardless of the parties involved and to ensure that the feedback remains constructive and focused.

Simply Googling “stay interviews” will provide you with an immense amount of recommended questions that managers can and should ask during a stay interview. These resources may help you personalize and develop questions to ask your direct reports and to gain a better understanding of the differing views on the topic.  Managers can adapt these questions to their own style and customize their application to appropriately reflect the individual relationship with each direct report.

Your strategy may also include conducting an employee engagement or satisfaction survey, recognition programs for reaching tenure milestones, alternative work arrangements, supportive parental leave programs, concierge services or on-site day care. The possibilities are endless, but your engagement strategy should be responsive and reflective of the distinct values of your firm and culture of your people.

To serve its ultimate purpose, the feedback you receive should be met with a true willingness to hear it and consider the value of integrating some of that knowledge into your workplace. Using that information to inform future decisions sends a message that you listened and really care.  Of course, you will not always be in a position to say “yes”; however, this type of ongoing feedback loop provides an environment where you can explain why not, or why not now.

The goal: When you boil the process down to its simplest form, it’s about talking to your people and more importantly listening to them. In today’s employment climate, where firms compete for talented people to propel their businesses forward, it is more important than ever to be intentional about how you engage with your people. From a business perspective, stay interviews can be a highly effective practice and pay tremendous dividends when utilized as part of a firm’s overall engagement plan. Bonus: on top of benefitting the employee, managers who cultivate relationships with their direct reports and utilize these concepts will achieve an added reward - their own elevated engagement and sense of purpose. 

Additional Resources:

1. HR Executive magazine, Beverly Kaye, “The Stay Interview”, May 5, 2015

2. Hello Stay Interviews, Goodbye Talent Loss, Dr. Beverly Kaye, Sharon Jordan-Evans

3. Gallup poll, "Employee Engagement in U.S. Stagnant in 2015", January 13, 2016

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