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Why You Should Conduct Stay Interviews and What to Ask

When it comes to employee retention, few things are as important as stay interviews. A stay interview is a conversation with an employee about their satisfaction with their job, their goals, and their future with the company.

Stay interviews can help you identify red flags that an employee may be considering leaving. They also give you an opportunity to address any concerns the employee may have and show them you’re committed to their happiness and growth.

Preparing for Stay Interviews

Conducting stay interviews is a proactive way to prevent turnover and ensure that your best employees are happy and engaged. If you’re not already conducting stay interviews, you’re missing out on a key opportunity. However, for stay interviews to be effective, employees need to feel that they can trust the interviewer and that their employer is committed to making improvements based on what they learn. Otherwise, employees may hesitate to speak candidly, which defeats the purpose of the interview. 

To build trust, employers need to ensure their HR team is approachable and that employees feel comfortable raising concerns. They should also make it clear they are open to feedback and willing to make changes based on what they learn. By taking these steps, employers can create an environment where stay interviews can thrive and provide valuable insights into employee engagement and retention.

Some of this trust-building will take time. Employees will become more open and expressive after they’ve been interviewed a few times, especially if they’ve seen changes made in response to their feedback. However, when you first get started with these interviews, it’s helpful to reassure employees that the answers they give will not affect their performance reviews or result in any kind of retaliation.

Scheduling the Interviews

When scheduling employee stay interviews, aim to keep the interview itself to 30 minutes or less. There’s no need to make it a drawn out, formal affair. Make sure you ask the most important questions first. This is important because some employees may have long answers that lead to a fruitful, but possibly tangential, conversation. 

Finally, think about how often you need to conduct these interviews. This will likely depend on factors such as the number of employees you have, who is conducting the interviews (individual managers or HR), and whether you’ve already established regular check-ins with employees. 

If managers have regular one-on-one meetings with their employees, then conducting a stay interview once a year should be sufficient. In fact, a great way to start every regular one-on-one meeting is to ask how things are going for the employee. If you’re regularly chatting with employees about these matters—say once or twice a month—a separate stay interview might not be necessary. However, having HR conduct a separate stay interview can be helpful in cases where employees are not comfortable discussing these matters with their manager. Either way, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open so that you can prevent turnover and keep your best employees happy and engaged.

Executing the Interviews

You may wish to open the interviews with a statement such as, “Thank you for meeting with me. I wanted to have an informal discussion about how your job is going, how you enjoy working here, and what we can do to support you. We value your feedback, and we want this to be a great place to work.”

It’s best to stick with open-ended questions, as they provide more actionable information. But it’s also important to limit your questioning to matters that are within your power to change. For example, asking if an employee is happy with their rate of pay can be counterproductive if their rate of pay cannot be increased. Asking about pay, in this case, might give you additional information, but it’s likely to cause frustration on the employee’s part when nothing comes of their feedback.

Here are a few questions you might consider asking:

  • What do you look forward to when you come to work each day?
  • What do you like most or least about working here?
  • What keeps you working here?
  • If you could change something about your job, what would that be?
  • What would make your job more satisfying?
  • What would you like to learn here? What motivates (or demotivates) you?
  • What can I do to best support you?
  • What can I do more of or less of as your manager?
  • What might tempt you to leave?

Don’t forget to take notes during the interview and be sure to document any action items that come out of the meeting. These could be changes you need to make to an employee’s job, additional training they need, or anything else that will help you support them better.

Closing the Interviews

At the close of the stay interview, it’s crucial to review the highlights of the discussion with the employee. This will help ensure both parties are on the same page and that there’s a clear understanding of what needs to be done going forward. 

To close the interview, you might say something like, “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me and share this feedback. I am committed to doing what I can to address your concerns. You’ll receive a recap from me about our discussion and please feel free to come back and ask questions about the items we’ve discussed.” Letting the employee know what to expect next will help to keep them engaged and committed to the process.


If any changes are made because of the employee’s feedback, be sure to let the employee know in the recap. Also, let them know if any expected or desired changes couldn’t be made and why, if appropriate. Transparency is key, particularly as you won’t be able to fix everything or please everyone. Employees may not like the way everything is done, but if you share with them the reasons the company does things the way it does, they’ll be more likely to trust you and share their concerns in the future.

Conducting stay interviews is a wonderful way to reduce employee turnover and improve overall satisfaction, but it’s only one part of a larger retention strategy. To really keep your best employees, you need to have a comprehensive plan that includes things like proper onboarding, company culture, and clear-cut policies. But it can be difficult creating all of these HR assets by yourself. We created the Ultimate HR & Payroll Resource Bundle to help small businesses with limited HR resources build a strong foundation for their team. Click here for your free bundle!

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