Skip to main content
An HR Glossary for HR Terms

Glossary of Human Resources Management and Employee Benefit Terms

page leaf

Stay Interviews

What Is a Stay Interview?

A stay interview is when an employer sits down with an employee to gather information about the things the employee values about their job and to discover what the worker believes can be improved. In essence, a stay interview is similar to an exit interview, but it’s done with active employees rather than those heading out the door.

What Is the Purpose of Stay Interviews?

The purpose of stay interviews is, ultimately, to raise employee retention rates. However, many things can be discovered during stay interviews that are important for reaching that end goal.

For example, stay interviews allow employers to:

  • Build trust between managers and their team members.

  • Engage with employees to show their opinions are valued.

  • Learn why employees want to continue working for the company, and why they might want to leave.

  • Find out if there are any issues that should be resolved between the employee and any of their superiors or team members.

  • Understand the employee’s stance on their current position and what they’d like to have changed.   

  • Determine what challenges employees appreciate and what motivates them to work toward the organization’s mission.

  • Gain a better understanding of the employee’s unique fears, dreads, hopes, and strengths.

  • Gather actionable information about current and upcoming employee trends in the office.

Are Stay Interviews Effective?

Yes, most employers find stay interviews to be very effective at giving a good feel for where their employees stand on specific issues, as well as their overall workplace satisfaction. When possible, feedback, motivation, and assignments can be customized according to what works best for the employee. This makes for a happier employee who does better work.

Often, stay interviews are viewed as more effective and appreciated than general employee satisfaction surveys. This is because the interview setup allows for a two-way conversation and for follow-up or clarifying questions. Any time an employer and employee talk to each other, engagement and retention tends to go up. This is especially true when action is taken based on the information gathered.

Do note that stay interviews don’t come without challenges. Here are a couple difficulties that may occur during or after a stay interview:

  • Needing to deal with any unpleasant truths that are uncovered (bad feelings toward a specific manager, an apathetic employee, etc.)

  • Having to accept accountability for responding to any issues that arise, including those dealing with requests for pay increases or promotions

When Should Stay Interviews Be Conducted?

In addition to ensuring stay interviews are conducted before employees are getting ready to leave the organization, they should be done:

  • Once a new employee has begun to settle into their job, within the first couple of months. Since new hires are the most vulnerable to turnover, it helps to get ahead of any possible issues before they quickly drive the employee away. Consider interviewing them a few more times throughout the first year of employment.

  • Annually to ensure any new issues, motivations, and trends are recorded and dealt with before they go too long without being addressed.

  • Anytime employees seem disengaged for a prolonged period of time.

How to Conduct Stay Interviews

To conduct stay interviews successfully, keep them simple. Open by thanking the employee for their time, explaining the purpose of the interview, and encouraging them to give honest feedback. Then, ask questions to learn why they stay, why they might leave, and what can be done to increase their satisfaction in their job.

Here are a few specific questions to get you started:

  • Do you feel your knowledge, skills, and experience are being fully utilized?

  • What would make your job more satisfying to you?

  • How can you be better supported?

  • How do you like to be recognized for a job well done?

To conduct stay interviews that are effective at increasing engagement and building trusting relationships, use these six tips:

  1. Conduct all needed stay interviews within a few weeks of each other so that the most current and accurate information can be gathered.

  2. Make the employee aware of the interview ahead of time, including its purpose and how to prepare for it.

  3. Keep the interview around 25-45 minutes long.

  4. If the employee seems uneasy answering stay interview questions, work to build trust and show transparency. In the meantime, make it possible for interviews to be conducted anonymously.

  5. Don’t include a performance review during the stay interview, and don’t mention the employee’s performance at all. Doing so may discourage the employee from being honest in their feedback.

  6. Express your gratitude for the employee and how you value their work. 

  7. Have procedures in place beforehand so that effective follow-up actions can be immediately addressed.