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The 'Stay Interview': A Gamechanger for Finding Out What Keeps your Employees Happy

Registered investment advisory (RIA) firms focus on building strong client relationships and doing what is best for the client at all times. Their dedicated focus on all aspects of a client’s comprehensive financial situation forms the bedrock of client relationships and leads to greater client satisfaction and retention.

Yet, all too often the same dedication and focus are not placed internally on the employees who care for clients. The relationships an RIA firm builds with its employees are equally important to those it develops with its external clients, and the same amount of care should be taken to ensure greater employee satisfaction and retention.

The Stay Interview
A key tool that can be used toward this end is the Stay Interview. Most of us are familiar with exit interviews, which are conducted with departing employees to find out why they are leaving their positions. However, the exit interview uncovers this information after it’s too late to do anything about it. The stay interview, on the other hand, helps managers understand why employees stay, so those factors can be reinforced. It also provides insight into factors that might cause someone to leave the workplace in time for managers to do something about it.

Here at McKinley Carter, we recently began an initiative to conduct stay interviews with all our employees via a firm-wide survey. Bi-monthly, employees are asked a different set of stay questions. The results are collected and shared with the entire firm during our monthly all associates meetings. The information is also used to provide ongoing coaching to all supervisors throughout the firm.

In June, we examined positive stay factors – the things that keep employees at the firm and excited about coming to work every day. Their answers were enlightening.

When asked to identify the most satisfying aspect of their work, more than half of our total employees and all of our advisors gave answers involving care for clients.

  • 71% of our advisors cited “helping and making a difference for clients” as the most satisfying aspect of their work at the firm.
  • 29% cited “receiving client appreciation” for the work they had done as the most satisfying aspect of their roles.

Many of the employees in operational or support roles identified helping colleagues and freeing them to focus on client work as the most satisfying aspects of their jobs.

This sense of being a valuable source of help to others – be it external clients or internal colleagues – helps to instill in employees a sense of passion about the work they perform day to day. One survey respondent summed it up this way: I love the challenge of identifying opportunities to help other people, external clients or internal colleagues, achieve more working with us than on their own or with others.

Another respondent indicated that he felt passionate about his work when “giving people confidence that the financial decisions they are making will give them the best chance at reaching their goals and dreams...”

A Positive Corporate Culture
This desire to help others certainly creates a positive atmosphere for our clients, but it also serves to engender a positive corporate culture at McKinley Carter. Seeking input from employees via methods like the stay interview furthers this culture.

Caring for employees is one of our primary areas of concern, which is evidenced by our being named a Five-Diamond Employer by the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce in both 2016 and 2017. The Five-Diamond designation recognizes companies for their employee policies, continuing education opportunities, community service participation, and empowerment of employees.

By using tools like the stay interview, we hope to remain on the forefront of employee care, which, in turn, will ensure that we continue to provide the best in client care. And, according to our employees, caring for others is what it’s all about.

Meredith McKinley serves as Human Resources Manager at McKinley Carter Wealth Services. She holds a master’s degree in corporate communication from West Virginia University and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Ohio Wesleyan University. She also holds the Society for Human Resource Management Certified Professional (SHRM-CP®) designation. To learn more about how to construct a Stay Interview, please contact Meredith at

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