People Management

What Is a Stay Interview? 15 Questions to Get You Started

Your workforce is your most valuable asset. While hiring top talent is essential, retaining employees is just as necessary for your business’s success. Stay interviews are a proactive way for managers to understand what’s important to their team members and address concerns. It will keep you in tune with your employees’ needs and help reduce turnover.

Takeaways

  • Stay interviews are a proactive approach that helps retain top talent by focusing on engagement and feedback from current employees.
  • Key stay interview best practices include thorough preparation, establishing trust, asking open-ended questions, active listening, and follow-up.
  • Insights gained from stay interviews inform actionable strategies that address employee concerns, improve engagement, and align with company goals.

What Is a Stay Interview?

A stay interview is a tool used for feedback and employee retention. Unlike exit interviews, which are conducted when an employee decides to leave the company, stay interviews are conversations held with active employees. 

According to trends in Wizehire’s Small Business Report, 35% of employers say employee retention is the biggest obstacle small businesses face regarding growth and hiring. With a tighter labor market and talent retention growing more difficult, stay interviews are becoming a staple at many companies.

The end goal of a stay interview is to understand what the employee enjoys or dislikes about the company, what keeps them on the team, and any areas of dissatisfaction that may lead to turnover.

Open communication between managers and employees builds trust and helps the company create strategies to retain, engage, and motivate employees.

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Benefits of Stay Interviews

Every company wants a workplace where great employees don’t want to leave. Interviews help achieve this by identifying and resolving issues that lead to turnover.

These interviews show employees that their opinions are valued, which boosts engagement and job satisfaction. They also provide deep insights into workplace issues, such as quiet hiring or presenteeism that can lead to burnout, and guide how to enhance the work environment.

Additionally, stay interviews are great for shaping retention strategies, improving benefits, and developing career opportunities. They also offer a real-time view of your employer branding and what might be done to improve it.

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How to Conduct a Stay Interview

During a stay interview, a manager or HR representative usually asks open-ended questions to encourage employees to provide honest feedback about the following: 

  • experiences 
  • perceptions
  • job expectations 
  • work environment
  • career development opportunities
  • compensation and benefits
  • company culture

Conducting a stay interview requires careful planning, active listening, and a genuine interest in employee perspectives and concerns.

Whether interviewing a few top-performing employees, a single department, or your whole workforce, there are some guidelines for a productive experience.

Prepare for the Interview

Before the interview, familiarize yourself with the employee’s background, role, performance history, and any previous feedback they’ve provided. Create a list of open-ended questions to guide the conversation.

Afterward, reach out to the employee and schedule the stay interview, ensuring the timing is convenient for both parties and there will be no interruptions.

Create a Comfortable Environment

Choose a private and comfortable setting for the interview where the employee feels at ease and can speak freely. A quiet office free of distractions or a casual setting (such as over lunch) can help employees relax and feel comfortable opening up.

Setting the tone is also a big part of making the stay interview feel welcoming. Explain its purpose and emphasize that the employee’s feedback is valuable and will be kept confidential.

Listen and Respond Actively

In addition to asking open-ended questions (examples below), pay attention to verbal and non-verbal cues, such as tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions.

Take notes as needed, but avoid interrupting the employee while they are speaking. Acknowledge their feedback and validate their concerns by expressing gratitude for their honesty and assuring them that their feedback will be taken seriously.

If you get brief or vague responses, you can gently probe for more information to understand their perspective better.

For instance, if you get a vague answer about their experiences with the company’s culture (e.g., “I like our culture; I haven’t had too many issues with it”), you can follow up with, “What parts of our company culture do you find the most appealing, and what parts do you feel could be improved?”

Discuss Actionable Steps

After gathering feedback, involve the employee in discussing solutions and actionable steps to address any issues or concerns raised during the stay interview. Develop a plan and timeline for improvements.

Remember to check in with the employee afterward to provide updates on any actions taken based on their feedback.

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15 Questions to Ask During a Stay Interview

The following 15  questions will help you collect insights into your employees’ opinions and how the organization can evolve to reach a higher standard. These questions encourage open and honest conversation between you and your employees.

Stay Interview Questions

  1. What do you enjoy most about your current role?
  2. What are things that you like and dislike about our company culture? What would you change about it if you could?
  3. What motivates you to come to work each day?
  4. Are there any aspects of your job that you find challenging or frustrating?
  5. What are some job responsibilities that you enjoy the most?
  6. How do you feel about the support and resources provided by leadership?
  7. What are your short- and long-term career goals?
  8. What would tempt you to leave or start job hunting elsewhere?
  9. Do you feel recognized for your achievements? How do you like to be recognized?
  10. What skills would you like to learn?
  11. What skills do you wish you used more in your current role?
  12. How would you describe the company’s values and priorities?
  13. Can you share any suggestions for creating a better environment for teamwork and collaboration?
  14. Do you feel supported in your work-life balance?
  15. Is there anything that I, as your manager, can improve upon?

Stay Interview Best Practices

You’ve learned how to conduct a stay interview, and you have a running list of questions—now let’s go over some stay interview best practices that will ensure you get the most value out of this process.

Establish Clear Objectives

Before starting any stay interviews, establish clear objectives and end goals you want to achieve. Write out what information you hope to gather and how it will inform strategies and decisions.

Train Interviewers

You may conduct the stay interviews or delegate them to other managers or HR staff. Whoever conducts the interviews should understand their purpose, ask open-ended questions, use active listening techniques, and know how to handle sensitive or confidential information.

Make Stay Interviews a Part of Onboarding

As new hires settle into their positions, connect with them a few times in those first months to get fresh perspectives on the company. Turnover is most likely to occur with a new hire, so using stay interviews to get ahead of any issues can save time, money, and stress.

Schedule Regularly

Schedule stay interviews regularly—annual or bi-annual interviews are a good rule of thumb—to check in with employees and track any changes in their satisfaction and engagement over time. Try to complete all the interviews within a short time frame so that all information gathered is current and accurate.

Evaluate Your Stay Interview Process

Evaluate and refine your stay interview program based on employee feedback and the effectiveness of implemented strategies. If you find information lacking, analyze your questions, interview method, and objectives to see how you can encourage a deeper analysis with the next round of interviews.

Put Your Stay Interview Strategy Into Action

Directly after the interview, follow up with each employee to thank them for their feedback and inform them of any actions resulting from your discussion. This will maintain open communication and show each individual their input is valued and taken seriously.

Track common themes or trends among different employees or departments. This can help identify systemic issues that may require addressing at the organizational level.

For instance, if multiple employees mention a lack of timely communication from decision-makers, leading to missed deadlines or working odd hours, it may be time to revisit company policies on prompt communication.

Once feedback has been compiled and analyzed, you can develop an action plan to address issues and improve employee satisfaction. This plan may include changing company policies or procedures and  providing additional training and development, 

With a strategy in place, communicate your proposed actions to your employees to remain transparent and give them a sense of ownership in any organizational changes. 

The process doesn’t end there! Strategies require constant monitoring to ensure they remain effective over time and the desired outcomes are being reached. Then, the improvements can be re-evaluated during the next stay interview process.

Pros and Cons of Conducting Stay Interviews

Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of any company process is always a good idea.

Pros

  • Employee motivation: Employees who participate in stay interviews are often happy that their company is asking them for their viewpoint, which motivates them to highlight key issues and suggest improvements.
  • Low pressure: Since stay interviews are conducted with current employees, the tone can be casual without high emotions, as it could with exit interviews. 
  • Turnover reduction: Since stay interviews are action-based, employees may decide to stay with the company to see how their work experience improves.

Cons

  • Time-consuming: Stay interviews need to be conducted regularly with a variety of employees, which means a lot of time is put into preparation, the actual interviews, analyzing trends, and creating a retention strategy.
  • Employee hesitation: If an employee is unsure of the motivations behind the interview, they may feel like they’re being interrogated and hesitate to share their frustrations.
  • Unfixable problems: Sometimes, an identified issue can’t be resolved, leading to dissatisfaction or even resignation.

Wize Words

An employee who feels heard is an employee who feels valued. Listening to employee feedback and making changes based on those concerns will boost morale and retain valuable talent. The key lies in translating stay-interview insights into actionable initiatives aligning with company goals and values.

Author

  • Anna Petron

    Anna Petron is a professional writer with several years of communication and brand storytelling experience across a spectrum of businesses. She's intrigued by trends that constantly shift and affect recruitment and workplace culture, and she provides practical solutions for organizations looking to enrich their internal structure.

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The article was reviewed by Deirdre Sullivan

Anna Petron

Anna Petron is a professional writer with several years of communication and brand storytelling experience across a spectrum of businesses. She's intrigued by trends that constantly shift and affect recruitment and workplace culture, and she provides practical solutions for organizations looking to enrich their internal structure.

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