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How to use stay interviews to reduce unwanted turnover

At every practice, turnover is something that we have to deal with. While some turnover is unavoidable, and in some cases, even helpful, it always represents a substantial cost to the practice.

How much does it cost to replace a team member?

Gray money sign filled 16-21% with green. A whole heck of a lot – that’s how much! Taking DVMs and Practice Managers out of the equation, the estimated cost of turnover for most positions at your practice is between 16 and 21% of a given team member’s annual wage1. So, for a full-time team member making $15/hour (or $30,600 a year), the estimated turnover cost would range from approximately $4,900 to $6,400. This estimate includes hard costs, like employment ads, recruiting services, and sign-on bonuses, as well as soft costs.


The soft costs of employee turnover are where things really start to add up

  • You’ll need to invest time and energy in recruiting and interviewing.
  • You’ll experience a loss in productivity. Consider the opportunity cost of whatever you have to put off doing during the recruiting and interviewing process.
  • Your team will be stretched thin until you find a replacement; your practice’s availability to clients may even be impacted.
  • The first departing team member may cause his or her peers to consider leaving; whenever someone leaves, others naturally take the time to consider why.
  • It takes a long time to get new hires up to speed; they are more prone to making errors and less likely to solve problems independently.
  • A certain percentage of new hires will end up not being a good fit and you’ll end up having to repeat the entire process to find a more suitable replacement.

Reduce turnover by conducting stay interviews. [1]Click To Tweet [1]

Most of us are familiar with the idea of conducting exit interviews when valued staff members leave a practice, the goal being to discover what they liked about working at the practice, what could have been improved, etc.

While exit interviews are certainly helpful, authors Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans suggest that we should be asking these same questions in the form of stay interviews long before team members have decided to seek employment elsewhere. These interviews provide insight into why team members choose to stay at your practice and why they might consider leaving.

Two people facing each other at a desk.

What does a stay interview look like?

In short, they provide insight into why team members choose to stay at your practice and why they might consider leaving. Stay interviews take the form of a low-pressure conversation between a supervisor and a valued team member. [2]Click To Tweet [2] Every effort should be made to differentiate them from performance evaluations, annual reviews, and peer feedback.

These interviews provide an opportunity for the supervisor to learn more about a team member, and for the team member to see that the supervisor cares. By the end of the conversation, the supervisor should have a good idea of what will keep the team member at the practice.

Three office workers standing around talking.

Stay interview best practices

Want to give stay interviews a try at your practice? Here are some best practices to keep in mind:


Sample stay interview questions2

  • What will keep you here?
  • What might entice you away?
  • What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning?
  • What makes you hit the snooze button?
  • If you were to win the lottery and resign, what would you miss the most about your job?
  • What do you want to learn this year?
  • Does work give you back as much as it takes out of you?
  • If you had a magic wand, what is something that you’d change about the practice?
  • What do you wish you’d known before you joined our team?
  • Are we fully using your talents?
  • What is inhibiting your success?
  • What can I do differently to best assist you?


Forward-Booking Staff Meeting in a Box These are just a few of the questions you can ask to get inside the minds of your team members. Keep your ears and eyes open on a day-to-day basis, and more will most certainly come to mind as you witness interactions among team members, between team members and management, and between team members and clients.

While endless factors influence an individual’s inclination to stay or go, the happier your team members are, the less likely they will be to leave your practice. A happy, healthy work culture is a must, so look for ways to promote it. For starters, check out this Forward-Booking Staff Meeting in a Box [4]. It’ll help you deliver better patient care while boosting team spirit!

Ben Spinks, CVPM, MBA, SPHR is the Hospital Administrator at Tipp City Veterinary Hospital [5] and a veterinary practice consultant. He can be reached at bspinks@tippvet.com [6]


1 There Are Significant Business Costs to Replacing Employees – Center for American Progress, 2012
2 Sources: Hello Stay Interviews, Goodbye Talent Loss: A Manager’s Playbook by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans; Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans