HR Mavericks

Eddy’s HR Mavericks Encyclopedia

Stay Strategy
Your superstar employee—whom you worked so hard to recruit, hire, and onboard!—informs you that they are leaving the company. They make a huge impact and help raise the bar for everyone else around them. The news is devastating, but there is still something you can do besides let them walk out the door.

What Is a Stay Strategy?

A stay strategy helps your organization keep your star employees, high performers, and high potentials from leaving your organization for different opportunities. In essence, it includes focusing on their connection with your organization and demonstrating how their careers can still benefit from staying.

Stay Strategy vs Retention Strategy

Eddy distinguishes the two in this way: you have a retention strategy that is being acted on at all times to keep employees from considering leaving. You have a stay strategy to act on when a valued employee has gotten a serious offer or is being seriously considered by a different company, and you need to win them back. You need both of these strategies to keep your company moving forward, and they complement one another. The two strategies share some common elements. They both:
  • Involve an employee's sense of belonging at the company.
  • Are meant to prevent losing money to turnover.
  • Identify win-win situations for both parties.

Benefits of Getting Your Employee to Stay

You may not have considered the full impact of high-performer turnover. It includes losing:
  • Knowledge: These employees are experts in their department. If they take another job, their knowledge goes with them.
  • Money: Losing employees to turnover is expensive. The World at Work states that turnover can cost from 33 to 200% of the departing employee's annual salary.
  • Leadership: Losing valuable people impacts the future of your business, since it’s common for them to move up to replace leaders when those positions become available. Also, your star employees likely provided mentorship to other team members.
  • Productivity: When an employee leaves, someone has to pick up the slack. The responsibility often falls to the departing employees' coworkers. This creates stress on them and increases the chance of burnout.
  • Time. You have a lot on your HR plate. Losing this high performer will require that you put out a new job posting, review resumes, interview, extend an offer, and train the new hire.

Two Ideas for Convincing an Employee to Stay

It is possible to convince your star employee to stay and it is worthwhile to try. There are two areas to focus on: their existing connection to the company, and negotiating with them to sweeten the deal enough to persuade them to stay.

Company Connection

One of the biggest motivators for employees to stay is their feeling of connection with the organization. Here are four ideas that might be beneficial to discuss.
  • Impact: All employees, especially your superstars, want to make a difference with their work. Companies do a great job at highlighting how they can help the employees, but sometimes fail to mention how an individual's unique talents and skills make a difference in accomplishing the overall mission.
  • Culture: Your employee chose to join the company for a reason, and you can build on that. Having a sense of belonging does wonders for retention at company, and your superstar may need help strengthening that.
  • Opportunity. Employees sometimes leave for opportunities that are actually available at your company. You can help them become aware of these opportunities and save them from having to uproot their lives and move somewhere else.
  • Connection: Having one or multiple friends at work greatly decreases the chances of one leaving. This connection can be strengthened by having a mentor, holding team activities, or identifying mutual interests.


Negotiation can help you win back your superstar employee. Here are three things that can convince them to stay.
  • Development: You may be able to offer opportunities for your superstar to develop their skills or advance in their profession . Examples include attending conferences, getting certifications or licensing, or developing a new skill. Development could consist of taking on additional responsibilities or leading a project to solve a unique problem. The opportunity should be beneficial to both parties.
  • Benefits: Your company may not have any flexibility in overall pay, but sometimes there is the option to increase benefits that would appeal specifically to that individual
  • Pay: This isn’t always an option, but an increase in pay is definitely something you and the departing employee’s manager can consider.

When You Need to Let Them Go

While it's never easy, high performers should be let go if they have already made up their mind and won’t consider a counter offer. They want a career change your company cannot provide. However, all is not lost. A positive offboarding experience increases the likelihood of a previous employee returning in the future or recommending the company to friends.

How to Form Your Own Stay Strategy

Building a strategy from the ground up can be intimidating, especially with all the other tasks demanding time in your day. The most important thing is to start with baby steps and realize that changes can and will be made over time. A stay strategy consists of two parts: preventative and reactive. Here are five steps to forming your own strategy.

Step 1: Identify Superstar Employees

Remember, the purpose of the stay strategy is to win a superstar employee back if they have an offer or are being considered by a different company. Take some time to identify who these individuals are so that you can prevent or prepare for that situation. A common tool used to identify superstars is the nine box model. It is a graph which categorizes the employee by potential (High, Medium, and Low on the Y Axis) and performance (High, Medium, and Low on the X Axis). Your star employees will be categorized in the upper right hand corner.

Step 2: Ask Current Employees Why They Stay

Once you have identified these star individuals, take some time to conduct a stay interview. (These interviews are great to conduct with all employees to strengthen your retention strategy, as well. They occur outside of and before any sign that an employee is considering leaving.) A stay interview is a meeting in which you ask your employee why they continue to work for the organization and what would cause them to leave. Not sure how to conduct your first one? Here are five sample questions to consider:
  • What motivates you to keep working for us?
  • How do you like to receive recognition?
  • What skills would you like to develop?
  • What do you like the least about working here?
  • What would trigger you to consider leaving?

Step 3: Work With Your Managers

Your managers are on the frontline every day and can help motivate your employees to stay. These managers may be part of the stay interview, but if not, share the insights you gained from the employee. They can help execute the stay plan to make your company a more attractive place to work for your star employees.

Step 4: Re-recruit Your Superstars

Now that you have information as to why the individual might stay, it is time to execute your strategy. Everything discussed during the interview may not be possible, but the more you can do, the increased chance that they will stay. Here are four examples of offers you could make to persuade a great employee to stay:
  • Have a mid/senior leader be a career mentor
  • Participate in a cross-functional project
  • Shadow different departments
  • Provide leadership opportunities
After you have completed these steps, take a moment to evaluate how things are going and decide if any changes need to be made. These steps are the preventative part of your stay strategy.

Step 5: Practice for the Rainy Day

Even with all your prevention, a rainy day will come where a superstar will leave. Before this happens, take some time to practice how you will respond. You might practice with someone you trust, and ask for feedback. A good response in this situation includes:
  • Understand whether they are job searching or have accepted an offer elsewhere.
  • Ask them why they are leaving, and if there is anything the organization can do to have them stay.
  • Ask if they are open to hearing a counter offer from your organization.
Brent Watson

Brent Watson

Brent Watson enjoys problem solving, analyzing data, team building, and becoming an HR Guru. His work experience comes from the employee experience, recruiting, and training arenas. After attending a local HR conference, Brent knew that he had found his people and the problems he wanted to solve for in the business world.
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Frequently asked questions
Other Related Terms
DISC Personality Assessments
Employee Appreciation Day
Employee Feedback
Employee Net Promoter Score
Employee Recognition
Employee Replacement Costs
Employee Retention
Employee Satisfaction
Employee Service Awards
Great Resignation
Job Dissatisfaction
Job Security
Negligent Retention
Stay Interview
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