We are seeing more clubs these days implementing employee surveys as a vehicle for staff feedback and to measure the climate and level of staff satisfaction.

While this provides the club with overall data, it does not provide individual, employee-level feedback nor solutions to the issues raised.

Enter the stay interview, a tool that gathers individual employee input and feedback as well as delivering solutions. Simply put, the stay interview is a one-on-one discussion between manager and subordinate that takes place independently of the employee performance review. Instead of the employee being graded on performance, the stay interview grades the manager and provides invaluable input into what the employee needs to be engaged.

The stay interview promotes and delivers two very important strategies: Engagement and retention of your employees. In this work climate of low tenure and job hopping, engagement and retention are two very powerful forces to harness and promote.

There is a widespread school of thought that Millennials move quickly from job to job and this manifests as high turnover within this demographic of  employees. In the book 5 Mjf Jennjaf Myths by Gabrielle Bosche, the idea that Millennials look at jobs like dating is used as an example of how Millennials will “try on a job” before fully committing. During the first few months, Millennial employees are more likely to commit to people rather than companies.

The faster you build a relationship with your new team member, the more likely they are to be loyal to you and the club. We know Millennials look for greater meaning in the work they do, and the stay interview provides another opportunity for relationships to develop and for them to feel special, important and valued by their new employer.

Stay interviews start at the top with the GM/ COO interviewing each of their direct reports. This becomes the model for how stay interviews are conducted.  Then the direct reports interview their subordinates and so forth.

It’s important that the direct report is interviewed by their immediate supervisor – for example, the executive chef interviews the sous chef. The sous chef should not have a stay interview with the human resources department or the food and beverage director (unless they report directly to the F&B director).

In fact, the HR department can assist with creating the templates and holding managers accountable for collecting and reporting the results, but the HR department should not conduct the stay interviews.

The stay interview builds trust (when completed correctly) between supervisor and subordinate – a very important factor in retention. The supervisor asks questions about the subordinate’s current experience and creates a strategy to continually improve. Taking positive action as a result of the interview builds a bond of caring and trust between the supervisor and employee.

According to Richard Finnegan, in his book, The Power of Stay Interviews (published by SHRM), there are five questions a manager should ask in the stay interview:

  1. What do you look forward to each day when you commute to work?
  2. What are you learning here now and what do you want to learn?
  3. Why do you stay here?
  4. When is the last time you thought about leaving us and what prompted it?
  5. What can I do to make your job better for you?

Most of the questions are self-explanatory and question four is a sticky one, but it is an important to find that out when and why an employee was considering departure, without repercussions, so that the supervisor can correct the issue if possible or find alternatives. It also reveals the sense of urgency if the  consideration to leave was recent.

Occasionally an employee may answer “I don’t know” to a stay interview question. That is acceptable, but the supervisor
will need to follow up with the employee to ensure the question is eventually answered.

For the interview to be effective, the manager must truly listen, probe for clarification (which also checks for understanding and shows they cares) and take notes preferably in a template designed for this purpose. Leading effective stay interviews takes practice.

The manager is then held accountable to both the employee and their own supervisor by reviewing the feedback with both and designing a schedule and plan to meet the employee’s needs and perhaps a compromise.

In some situations, the employee may not trust the manager enough to tell the truth. The stay interview creates – the opportunity for ongoing dialogue and a deeper, trusting relationship between manager and employee when the manager truly listens and acts on the information gained during the interview. These discussions need trust as a foundation and the manager will gain a data point and discover how to earn that trust.

Finnegan does not recommend giving the questions to the employee ahead of time, but rather making it part of a verbal discussion that takes place. In fact, you don’t need to refer to it as a stay interview at all. You can call it a discussion, check-in or chat.

Difficulty finding employees and high employee turnover are the most frequent complaints we hear from clubs Adding the stay interview to your toolkit and teaching your managers how to use it effectively will yield impactful and lasting results in greater employee engagement and retention.

About the authors….

Lisa Carroll, SHRM-SCP, is a search & consulting executive with Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace, LLC, a consulting firm providing executive search, strategic planning and consulting services to the private club industry. She specializes in GM/COO and executive chef searches. The company has offices in Scottsdale, Jupiter, Denver, Cleveland, Naples, and Washington, D.C. Lisa can be contacted at (561) 596-1123 and at

Annette Whittley is a search & consulting executive with Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace, LLC. She specializes in Culinary executive search and F&B consulting. Annette can be contacted at (561) 827-1945 and at