Boost employee engagement and reduce turnover with our expert guide on conducting stay interviews. Don’t miss out on our free template packed with insightful questions for a thriving and content workplace.

What is a stay interview?

A stay interview is essentially a way for you to crack down on what’s making your employees engaged and happy at work. 

Think of it as a casual coffee chat between a manager and their team members but with more structure.

This approach is catching on. In fact, this initiative has seen a significant uptick in organizations, jumping from 33% in 2022 to 46% in 2023

But unlike exit interviews, which are conducted as an employee walks out the door, this practice sparks proactive discussions with those who are still part of the team. 

They are a crucial element of the ongoing employee life cycle, seamlessly integrating into an organization’s broader HR strategy.

stay interview vs. exit interview

What are the benefits of stay interviews?

1. Enhancing employee engagement

A key aspect of employee engagement is ensuring that individuals feel their work is meaningful and that they’re progressing in their careers. 

Stay interviews provide an opportunity for ongoing conversations, which Gallup identifies as one of the five drivers of workplace engagement.

This type of open dialogue signals to employees that their opinions and aspirations are valuable, boosting their morale and motivation.  

2. Boosting retention rates & reducing employee turnover

The proactive nature of stay interviews allows for early identification of issues, contributing to long-term retention. 

Organizations can foster trust between employees and managers by offering a one-on-one medium, leading to collaborative problem-solving. 

More than just a conversation, stay interviews offer a proactive way to address potential issues that might encourage someone to leave while they’re still happily employed, leading to organizational changes. 

Stay interviews have helped companies cut employee turnover by as much as 30%, all while improving productivity, reducing errors, and ultimately increasing profits.

Research also shows that nearly two in five individuals who left their jobs during the Great Resignation period state that having a stay interview could have impacted their decision to leave.

This goes to show how this initiative serves as a great preventive measure, allowing managers to understand and address employee concerns before they resign.

3. Fostering a culture of openness

A strong company culture is one where employees can voice their opinions without fear. 

Stay interviews have been shown to create an environment where individuals can express their feelings effectively. 

In fact, 76% of workers who’ve had a stay interview felt their manager fostered an environment where they could freely share their thoughts. 

4. Helps tailor personal development

One benefit of conducting stay interviews is that they can uncover areas of professional development that are most important to employees. 

By discussing career goals and aspirations, organizations can tailor personal development opportunities that align with the employee’s desires and the company’s objectives, creating a mutual path for growth. 

5. Informed decision-making for HR and recruitment teams

Stay interviews offer a goldmine of insights for both HR and recruiting teams, guiding us to make smarter choices. 

These genuine conversations with existing employees help us get valuable intel that can help shape key HR and hiring decisions. 

Whether it’s tailoring job roles to fit employee aspirations or refining our recruitment strategies based on real feedback, stay interviews empower us to make informed choices that benefit both the team and the organization.

6. Helps reduce recruitment costs

Stay interviews are a pretty cost-effective employee retention strategy, as they just require some time for a manager and their team to talk. 

This approach is way more economical than hiring someone new or dealing with the fallout when a team member leaves because they’re unhappy.

By focusing on open dialogue to improve employee contentment and engagement, stay interviews offer a straightforward, practically no-cost solution to fostering a positive work environment and curbing unnecessary turnover costs.

Read more: 5 proven ways to cut down your recruitment costs

Who should conduct stay interviews? 

who should conduct a stay interview

If we look at HR professionals, they’re pros at interviews, with a solid grasp of what engages employees and keeps them around. 

Their expertise in employee retention and engagement strategies allows them to offer valuable insights and guide the interview in an insightful and structured way.

On the flip side, managers have the advantage of daily interaction and personal relationships with their team members. 

This close connection means they can offer tailored support and address specific issues that come up during the interview. 

They understand the nuances of their team’s work and can provide feedback that directly impacts the team’s daily experiences and challenges.

The key is to choose someone who can foster a comfortable and open dialogue, making employees feel valued and heard. You can even consider having both HR and leadership participate in the interview.

How to conduct stay interviews and best practices to follow

Conducting a compelling stay interview is a strategic process that requires thoughtful preparation, execution, and follow-up. 

Let’s look closer at the steps and best practices for successfully executing a stay interview in your organization. 

how to conduct a stay interview

Step 1: Start with effective preparation and communication

Before initiating stay interviews, defining WHY your team is doing this is crucial. What do you hope to gain out of this initiative?

Whether you want to improve employee engagement, identify opportunities for internal recruitment, or prevent potential exits, having a clear goal will guide your conversations and ensure they yield valuable insights.

As you set a clear objective, it’s also crucial to communicate the purpose and process with employees. 

Emphasize that the aim is to better understand their needs and experiences, not to evaluate job performance. This distinction encourages trust and transparency from the start.

Step 2: Crafting and conducting the interview

A stay interview should be tailored to reflect an individual’s role, experiences, and aspirations. 

This approach demonstrates that you value their unique contributions and ensures that the conversation addresses the most relevant and meaningful topics for each employee.

You should also decide on an interval or timing, which can significantly affect your findings. 

Regularly scheduled stay interviews, such as semi-annually or annually, help track progress and reinforce the importance of continuous feedback and improvement.

Step 3: Listen attentively and document the process

Active listening is a core part of an effective stay interview. 

This involves fully concentrating on what is being said rather than passively hearing the message. 

It’s about understanding the employee’s perspective, showing empathy, and asking probing questions for clarity. 

And don’t forget to document the conversation to capture critical points and actionable insights.

Step 4: Develop a responsive action plan

When you’re finally done with your interviews, it’s time to go back and analyze all the interview feedback you’ve received to identify common themes and areas for improvement. 

Work with leadership and relevant teams to develop a responsive action plan that addresses these insights, showing a commitment to making positive changes based on employee feedback.

To make the most of this 4-step process, here are some stay interview best practices to follow:

  1. Assure confidentiality: Guaranteeing confidentiality encourages honesty and openness, making the insights gathered through stay interviews more genuine and valuable. This assurance helps employees feel safe sharing their true thoughts and feelings.
  2. Train interviewers: Ensuring interviewers are well-trained is vital for the success of stay interviews. They should be skilled in listening, empathizing, and effectively exploring the feedback provided. Consider setting up a meeting with the team of leaders who will be directly involved in the interview process to guide them on the best practices. 
  3. Prioritize two-way communication: Stay interviews need trust to work. If your company culture keeps a strict hierarchy, these interviews might not get the open feedback you aim for. That’s why it’s best to adopt open, two-way communication to get the most honest feedback for your organization.
  4. Include ALL team members: To avoid the perception that managers care only about certain employees and that not being interviewed means not being valued, all team members should be interviewed using the same standardized procedure. 
  5. Don’t include a performance review: Bringing up the employee’s performance during the stay interview may discourage the employee from being honest in their feedback.

Also check out: How to craft the perfect interview scorecard for better hiring? [FREE template inside]

15 best stay interview questions to ask employees

best stay interview questions

Remember that the power of a stay interview lies in the dialogue it creates. 

These stay interview questions are designed to spark meaningful conversations, uncover valuable feedback, and strengthen the bond between your employees and the organization.

Use them as a starting point to explore your team’s aspirations, concerns, and experiences, guiding your efforts to improve your workplace.

Feel free to mix and match the questions most appropriate for your organization. 

Questions about the employee

1. What motivates you to come to work every day?

The answer to this question can illuminate what personally drives the employee, such as alignment with the company’s mission, passion for their work, or team camaraderie. 

It helps tailor the work environment and responsibilities to these motivators, enhancing job satisfaction and loyalty.

2. What do you dread about work every day?

Unlike the last question, this one aims to uncover daily stressors or frustrations that may erode job satisfaction. 

Addressing these concerns can help prevent them from becoming reasons an employee might leave.

3. When was the last time you thought about leaving the company, and what prompted it?

By understanding what factors lead employees to consider leaving, you can proactively address systemic issues or individual grievances before they drive talent away.

These factors may include a particular situation, introducing a new policy, or even an individual. 

4. How would you rate your work-life balance, and how do you think it can be improved?

Did you know that companies with a positive work-life balance see a 25% boost in employee retention

If folks are constantly working long hours, it’s time to rethink balance. If you’re an on-site company, try introducing options like working from home to give everyone a bit more flexibility.

5. What would make your job even more satisfying? 

There are always things in an organization that can be done better. 

An open-ended question like this can help you find out where to start, especially once you see some common answers. Asking this allows employees to openly share what’s bothering them most, whether it’s their manager or a project. 

You might also like: What is an intake meeting? A complete guide with sample questions

Questions about the job role

1. What do you find most fulfilling about your work?

This question helps identify the aspects of work that provide a sense of accomplishment, which are critical to amplifying employee retention. 

With these insights, leaders can better understand what makes their team members want to go the extra mile and how they can be motivated. 

2. Are there areas in your role where you feel you need more challenges or support?

Asking employees about where they feel unsupported is another excellent way to tap into a potential reason for resignation. 

This not only helps identify areas where an employee might be struggling or feeling underutilized, but it also highlights opportunities for professional growth and development.

3. Would you recommend our company to job-seeking friends? Why or why not?

A recommendation is a strong endorsement of the company. This question reveals how employees genuinely feel about the company culture, leadership, and growth opportunities.

4. What would you like to be doing within your role that you aren’t currently doing?

Asking employees about tasks or projects they’re interested in but haven’t had a chance to tackle opens up a dialogue for growth and innovation. 

This can reveal hidden talents or aspirations, helping align their roles more closely with their interests and professional development. 

5. Do you think you are receiving adequate learning and development opportunities from the company?

If you want people to stay with you in the long run, it’s important to offer opportunities for career growth. 

By asking this question, you can better understand what might be missing from your learning and development initiatives. 

Check out: How can recruiters create a successful candidate experience survey? 

Questions about the company culture

1. How well do you feel our company’s values align with your own personal values?

Alignment with company values is fundamental to an employee’s sense of belonging and purpose. 

Discrepancies here can signal a misalignment that might affect their longevity with the company.

2. Can you provide an example of how you’ve seen our company values in action?

Asking for specific instances where company values have been demonstrated reinforces their importance and allows you to see if employees perceive and live those values as intended.

3. What three words would describe our team culture and why?

This question allows for assessing the perceived team dynamics and culture, offering a straightforward reflection of the day-to-day team environment.

4. Do you feel valued and recognized in the company? Why or why not?

If your company is good at making employees feel valued and giving them the recognition they deserve, this will positively impact their engagement and productivity.

On the other hand, a lack of appreciation can push people to move elsewhere—all the more reason to include this question in your list of employee stay interview questions.

5. How would you like to be recognized for your work?

Asking this question taps into what genuinely makes your team feel appreciated. 

It’s not just about saying ‘good job’; it’s about finding out whether they prefer public praise, an incentive structure, or maybe something else entirely. 

Getting this right can supercharge their motivation and commitment, showing you care not just about what they do but also about recognizing them in a way that resonates personally.

Also read: Positive candidate experience & organizational culture: How to hire top talent & keep it? 

Download our FREE stay interview template 

Are you ready to transform the way you engage with your team? 

Download our free stay interview template now! It’s packed with thought-provoking questions designed to deepen your understanding of your employees’ experiences, aspirations, and challenges. 

This tool is your first step towards creating a more supportive, motivated, and satisfied workplace. 

Download the PDF below and start making meaningful changes today!

How HR teams can analyze and act on stay interview feedback

When it comes to making the most out of stay interview feedback, the goal is to pinpoint those nuggets of wisdom that can lead to real, impactful changes within your organization.

Here are some steps for creating action plans based on stay interview insights:

  1. Dive into the details: Don’t just skim through the surface of your feedback. Look for common patterns and themes that could lead to significant improvements.
  2. Set clear goals: Once you’ve identified the main areas for improvement, it’s time to get specific. What exactly do you want to achieve? Setting measurable goals means tracking your progress and evaluating the impact of your changes.
  3. Delegate and take action: Assign clear roles and responsibilities for bringing these action plans to life. This can mean involving leaders from different departments to ensure these steps are implemented across the team. 
  4. Keep the conversation going: Monitoring progress is key, but so is staying flexible. Be ready to tweak and adjust your strategies based on new feedback or changes in the workplace. It’s an ongoing conversation, not a one-time fix.

When it comes to effectively conducting a stay interview, always remember Jack Welch’s wisdom, “Change before you have to.” 

This proactive approach is golden when applying employee feedback from your interviews. It’s all about staying ahead and continuously seeking improvement to truly improve our workplace. 

Frequently asked questions

1. How often should stay interviews be conducted?

Stay interviews should be conducted at least once a year to ensure that employees’ needs and concerns are regularly addressed. The timing and frequency may vary depending on the organization and its specific needs, but these interviews typically last 30-45 minutes.

2. How can you ensure confidentiality and trust during stay interviews?

To ensure confidentiality and trust during stay interviews, organizations can provide clear guidelines on confidentiality, assure employees that their feedback will be kept confidential, and create a safe and supportive environment for open communication.

3. How can you measure the success of a stay interview?

The success of stay interviews can be measured by tracking employee retention rates, monitoring employee satisfaction and engagement levels, and analyzing feedback and action plan implementation.

4. Are stay interviews suitable for all types of organizations?

Stay interviews can benefit all types of organizations, regardless of size or industry. The key is to adapt the process to fit your specific needs and culture.