Stay Interviews

Our team of SHRM certified strategists recently traveled to the 2023 Indiana HR Conference. They came back with a plethora of useful and important information. Over the coming weeks ExactHire will be detailing what we believe to be the most important takeaways from this conference

Stay interviews were a topic of conversation that we felt were an important takeaway. Losing key talent rarely is good. According to Gallup, companies in the United States spend $11 billion dollars annually on turnover. The time and effort Human Resources must go through to start the replacement process is expensive, even if the position is filled internally by an existing employee who is already acclimated to the company. Especially concerning…did the departed employee go to work for the organization’s competitor!?!?  If so, that can be damaging to the company’s income, particularly if the former employee shares company strategies and insight. It is crucial for a company to mitigate turnover before it happens, and one way to do that is by administering “Stay Interviews”.

What are Stay Interviews?

“Stay Interviews”. What’s that you say? A Stay Interview is a proactive method to prevent the loss of talent before it happens. It is a conversation between a company leader (typically a manager) and an employee (typically a direct report) to learn what the employee needs from the company so the employee can be engaged and retained by the company.  It is the opposite of an “Exit Interview”. Exit interviews are somewhat reactive. When Human Resources and/or an employee’s manager conducts an exit interview, it is too late. The employee has submitted their notice to resign, and rarely is there an opportunity to change the employee’s decision to leave.

Exit interviews are useful in collecting reasons why an employee chooses to leave the organization. However, it is often too late for the company to resolve those particular issues affecting that employee which instigated the employee’s choice to work elsewhere.  Exit interview information can be useful if the information collected can be used to make positive change. It can also be used within the organization to prevent future talent from leaving. If there are overarching themes communicated in exit interviews such as pay concerns, work-life balance, or the need for flexibility, it delivers a message to the employer that there is a need to evaluate current working conditions. The company can use the data to review internal design, benefits, working conditions and any other relevant areas. Exit interviews are a crucial way to identify challenges in the workplace. They should be incorporated in a company’s offboarding process.

Why are Stay Interviews Important?

An organization’s goal is to minimize turnover and retain talent. However, talent cannot be retained as effectively if leadership does not know why employees choose to stay. This is why Stay Interviews are valuable. The ultimate goals of Stay Interviews are to prevent turnover and create a supportive work environment that meets employees’ needs. Stay Interviews are typically conducted by an employee’s direct manager. Depending on the work culture and size of the organization, Human Resources can participate also.

When an employee’s direct manager conducts a Stay Interview with an employee, the manager can receive candid feedback that can help strengthen the team and department. It could also damage the relationship if the manager is not skilled in accepting constructive criticism or candid feedback from an employee. If an employee has a contentious relationship with their manager, that employee might not share any instrumental feedback due to fear of repercussions. Keeping these scenarios in mind, it is important that employees have the ability to complete their Stay Interviews with company support. If they do not feel comfortable conducting their Stay Interview with their direct manager, then it is important that HR participate also. 

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Formatting Interviews

Interviews can be crafted in a format that fits best for the company culture. All departments and employee levels should complete a Stay Interview to collect a broad scope of insight. Having a discussion with the manager and/or HR can allow the employee to express their thoughts in more detail. Make it comfortable for the employee. Send a calendar invitation at least a week before the stay interview.  If a standard list of questions are utilized, consider giving the list to the employee prior to meeting so the employee can give genuine thought to formulating their answers.

It is not always easy for an employee to answer on-the-spot, thought-provoking questions relating to one’s employment. There are survey options that can be created and submitted with or without employee names. If surveys are utilized, feedback must be carefully evaluated by management and HR. After that evaluation, sharing the feedback and plan for the suggestions, positives and negatives need to be communicated to the employees for transparency.  While surveys are one option, it does not provide the same candor and facilitate the personal connection as in-person Stay Interviews do. Surveys can be a useful tool to collect supplemental data post-Stay Interview.       

Questions to Consider

Questions can vary somewhat in the context of the company and employee’s role and need to be applicable to onsite and remote employees. Avoid “yes” and “no” questions; the goal of a Stay Interview is discussion. One word answers rarely facilitate in-depth discussion. Here are a few standard questions that should be asked in a Stay Interview:

  1. Each morning, what do you look forward to about working that day? 
  2. What have you learned here? What are you currently learning now? What do you want to learn?
  3. Why do you stay with our company?
  4. When was the last time you thought about leaving our company? Why?
  5. How can I better support you in your role?

Customize the list further, but do not overload the employee with questions. Do more listening, not hearing but actual listening, more than talking. Take notes and follow up on any items in question. The Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) offers a list of questions that an employer can use when conducting Stay Interviews. Keep in mind, for employees who have worked at the company less than six months to a year, collecting their insight should be a part of employee onboarding and not administered as a formal “Stay Interview” as employees need to have time to become acclimated within the work culture and learn the intricacies of their roles. Show genuine appreciation for the feedback shared.


If your organization is not using Stay Interviews with your employees, consider using this concept. Stay Interviews can boost employee engagement which then increases company productivity.  They can decrease turnover and create positive organizational change by maintaining or implementing policies and benefits that increase employee satisfaction. Supplement your conversations with your employees by using your employee onboarding software to communicate events and positive change resulting from feedback collected in Stay Interviews.

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