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What is a Stay Interview?

Amanda Price
3 min read

A stay interview is a conversation that helps leaders identify why employees stay at their company. In other words it identifies what the employee likes about their role as well as changes that are important in determining their willingness and likeliness to stay and grow with an organization. 

Losing top talent is detrimental but it is avoidable—three in every four employee turnovers are preventable. Therefore, implementing stay interviews is crucial to ensuring business leaders are updating and creating a culture that aligns with the expectations of employees today. 

What Is the Purpose of a Stay Interview?

According to a 2021 Gartner survey, employee retention is a growing concern for 91% of HR leaders. Retaining talent has always been a priority for successful businesses, but now more than ever it is key for companies to listen to their employees and focus on what it takes to keep them. Organizations can embrace the opportunity to shift from The Great Resignation to The Great Retention by fostering greater understanding of their workforce.  

A stay interview: 

  • Identifies what motivates employees.
  • Builds a work environment and culture in which employees thrive. 
  • Strengthens a workforce’s engagement and retention within the organization.

Why Is a Stay Interview Important? 

A stay interview is important because it: 

  • Offers a proactive approach to solving workplace issues. While exit interviews give business leaders the chance to learn from mistakes, stay interviews allow them to address pain points before they become irreparable.  
  • Fosters trust between employees and organizational leaders. When business executives acknowledge and take action on employee feedback, this helps individuals feel valued and encourages them to stay at the company.
  • Can improve retention rates. As most of the reasons why employees quit are preventable, tackling issues early improves the likelihood they’ll stay with the company. Higher retention elevates morale, performance, and revenue. 

Who Should Conduct a Stay Interview? 

Stay interviews should be led by the employee’s manager. Alternatively, the department head can also participate in the discussion to learn and stay connected with staff members. 


When Should Employers Conduct a Stay Interview? 

When it comes to reaching the maximum potential in developing trust and retaining talent, stay interview consistency is more important than a one-size-fits-all frequency recommendation. To spearhead issues before they develop, the discussions need to be a regular part of the employee experience. These can take place during performance reviews or as a stand alone event once a year.

Each organization will determine the stay interview cadence that works best for them, but many find that having these discussions with employees on a quarterly basis is a sweet spot. In some cases, monthly stay interviews will give both employees and management the desired connection and transparency. Holding stay interviews on an annual basis dilutes the power of a quicker feedback loop. Adding a formal structure will help ensure that these essential conversations occur on a regular basis.    

It may be tempting to add stay interviews to performance reviews, but they will be more effective if given their own time and importance. An employee who is nervous about a performance discussion will likely not feel comfortable raising their own concerns in the same meeting, which will defeat the purpose of a stay interview.

In addition, leaders should begin conducting stay interviews during the onboarding phase. As 28% of new employees quit within the first three months, safeguarding the long-term viability of your business starts at the beginning.


What Should You Ask In a Stay Interview? 

Below are four questions to initiate valuable conversations in your stay interviews. Each question includes follow-up phrases and questions to help you dig deeper and learn more about the why and how.

  • What do you look forward to each day at work? 

This helps you gain a better understanding of daily tasks along with the responsibilities and relationships they carry. Moreover, it offers insight into what exact areas engage and motivate your employees.

  • Follow-up questions or phrases:
    • “Give me an example…”
    • “Tell me more about…” 
    • “Who/what helps you feel confident going to work?”
  • What are some pain points you encounter in your role? 

This helps identify ways you can better support employees. 

  • Follow-up questions or phrases: 
    • “What are three ways I can better support you with [pain point]?”
  • What do you like the least about your role or work experience? 

This question can unveil tangible ways on how the company can improve to enhance the employee experience. 

Your employee may already have specific ideas on ways to improve their role and position at the company. Encourage them to share those ideas.

  • Follow-up questions or phrases: 
    • “What would you rather do than [least-favorite task]?"
    • “How can we help you improve your experience here?”
  • Do you feel your knowledge, skills, and experience are being utilized to their fullest potential?

Having a purpose in one’s role is essential. This question can help you take the conversation to a more meaningful level and align an employee’s experience with their career goals. 

  • Follow-up questions or phrases: 
    • “What do you enjoy learning about the most?”
    • “Are there any other jobs here that attract you?”
    • “What are your career goals?”

To adequately prepare for your stay interview, keep these tips in mind: 

  • Allocate 30 minutes to one hour for these questions. Consider sharing the questions with your employee before the discussion so they have time to think and provide detailed feedback. 
  • Before your stay interview, communicate the purpose of the meeting. This can help nurture a safe environment that will encourage employees to provide candid feedback.  


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