How to use Stay Interviews as a Retention Strategy

May 30, 2016 | 3333 Views

How to use Stay Interviews as a Retention Strategy

Christine Andrews, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Vice President of Human Resources | Hostmark Hospitality Group

Turnover has always been a challenge for the hospitality industry, particularly for housekeeping and food-and-beverage departments. When the economy is doing better, unemployment is low, more jobs become available, and if you are not prepared, you can see your turnover statistics dramatically increase.

Finding the right candidate for your open positions becomes even more of a challenge and can take a long time to fill—not to mention the expense associated with recruitment. Depending on whom you talk to, the average cost of hourly turnover is about $1,500 to $3,000 per hire. Most managers don’t realize the true expense associated with turnover—post the job and they will come. Turnover expense is like an iceberg, you can see the money spent for posting the position on various sites and many managers only look at that figure. Lurking below the water are all of the indirect expenses associated with filling the open role that are often overlooked, which can easily double or triple the cost of posting the job.

Things that are often not considered in the cost of turnover include the salary and time of those who are involved with the interviewing process (what other duties that are more impactful to your operation are you taking them away from?); breakage; drop in service levels; and unplanned overtime. Additionally, you have all of the expenses from the onboarding process and training new hires so they are prepared for their new roles.

Look to retain
While turnover in our industry is inevitable, if we are to minimize the turnover impact, we need to put our focus on retaining key talent at all levels of the operation. We need to make sure we are creating work environments where our team members are engaged in the organization and employees are recognized and appreciated for their contributions.

One retention strategy that I’ve heard more and more about is conducting “stay interviews” with key talent. We all know that regular communication with our employees is crucial. If you are going to be a successful leader, you have to know your team.

Stay interviews are focused one-on-one discussions with team members that help you understand what keeps them wanting to stay working with you and/or your organization. Additionally, you can use these discussions to understand if you are at risk of losing them.

Last month, I was fortunate to attend an executive leadership breakout session at a conference with well-known author and motivational speaker Chester Elton, who wrote “The Carrot Principle,” “The Orange Revolution,” and “All In.” Turnover came up as the issue that executives are struggling with across all industries. Chester discussed the importance of regular one-on-one communication with team members and how asking the right questions can boost your retention. Below are the five questions that Elton shared with the group:

1. Have we kept our promises to you?
When someone joins your company, they have certain expectations about the company—aside from the compensation aspect. This question asks team members, are we as an organization doing the things we said we would do? This also is a great question to ask new hires after 90 days.

2. What do you think we do really well here?
Everyone wants be proud of where they work. This is a great opportunity to hear what team members like best about working for the company and how we stand out amongst the competition. These are the things that you want to continue to do.

3. What could we do better? What have you seen at other companies that worked really well?
No organization is perfect, but good organizations focus on continuous improvement. Most likely the employee has worked in positions with other companies so they can share their experiences. Pick ideas that would work within your own company.

4. Where do you want to be three to five years from now? Tell me about the best leader you’ve worked for.
Employees want to know they have a career path; they want to work for leaders who are going to help them achieve their professional goals.

5. Have we done anything that might cause you to leave us?
If there are issues identified, you have an opportunity to fix and increase the probability of employees staying with your company. If it’s something you can’t address or choose not assist with, be prepared for their departure sometime down the road.

If you are looking at ideas that you can implement to improve your retention, think about incorporating stay interviews into your organization. The above are just some questions that you can use, however there are a lot of other questions you can research on the internet to find what works best for you.

Best of all, stay interviews don’t cost a thing. If you invest just a little time, they can provide huge returns.

This blog first appeared as an article for Hotel News Now, May 11, 2016. It can be viewed at:

Christine Andrews, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, vice president of human resources for Hostmark Hospitality Group, is responsible for the direction of Hostmark's human resources/employee relations division. She has previously held human resources positions at several of Hostmark’s managed properties, and while with Hostmark has implemented many human resources programs for client properties. Andrews serves on the advisory board for Kendall College and AH&LA's Educational and Certification Advisory Board, and she is an active member of the Society of Human Resources Management and Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers. Andrews received her bachelor's degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she majored in Hotel Administration, and holds a Master's degree in Hospitality Management from Roosevelt University. You may reach Christine at

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Comments (3)

  1. Dick Finnegan:
    May 31, 2016 at 12:41 PM

    Nice post Christine. Should anyone want to do a deep dive into Stay Interviews, please contact me or look at my books, The Power of Stay Interviews or The Stay Interview. The first is the highest-selling SHRM-published book in history and that tells us how important this topic is. We also offer Stay Interview certification which equips you to implement Stay Interviews in your organization.

  2. John Krahn:
    May 31, 2016 at 02:22 PM

    Constant communication with the talent you want to keep is key to maintaining a business devoted to providing hospitality. Thanks for sharing this message Christine.

  3. Josh Evans:
    Jun 01, 2016 at 07:46 AM

    Great post Christine! Turn over is a huge thorn in the paw of hospitality. It causes a disruption to normal processes, can cause unrest among other staff members, and worst of all, it can create sub-par experiences for guests.
    Do you have any suggestions for best ways to encourage employee engagement outside of 'Stay Interviews'?