January 4, 2023

In today’s world, employees have more options than ever when finding employment. They can choose from a variety of companies, industries, and positions. If you want to keep your top performers happy, you must take the time to understand what makes them tick and why they choose to stay with your company.

That’s where stay interviews come in! These one-on-one conversations between managers and employees can promote positive morale while shedding light on potential retention issues before they become too big a problem. 

But what should a stay conversation include? Who should be the interviewer, and when and where should it be done? Keep reading for guidance on the stay interview process and questions.

What is a stay interview?

A stay interview is a one-on-one conversation between a manager and an employee focused on the employee’s engagement. This discussion can help you understand what makes your employees happy at work, why they stay at your company, and their growth opportunities.

Unlike exit interviews, which are conducted with employees who are already departing the company, the purpose of a stay interview is to retain talent before they decide to leave.

In addition to employee retention, the benefits of stay interviews include: 

  • Boosting employee productivity and engagement by showing them you value their opinions
  • Strengthening rapport between managers and their staff
  • Learning what your company is doing well and how you could improve
  • Uncovering contention between employees and their peers or supervisors
  • Discovering each employee’s feelings about their role and responsibilities—and how you can help them achieve their goals
  • Identifying personnel trends and how you can get ahead of them

Establish a Stay Interview Process

So, how, when, and where should you conduct stay interviews? Follow the guidelines below to maximize the impact of these discussions.

Schedule Them Strategically

While stay interviews don’t need to be lengthy—30 to 45 minutes is often sufficient—they deserve their own dedicated time and should be conducted:

  • Within a new hire’s first two to three months: This is a crucial time to focus on employee retention! Use the stay conversation to ensure they feel supported and satisfied in their role—and to get ahead of potential problems that could drive them away. 
  • When you notice a pattern: Are you seeing a high turnover rate for employees who have been with the company for two years? Or are you noticing disengaged team members? Conduct stay interviews as a retention and morale-boosting tool before they walk out the door.
  • During your slower season: Don’t hold stay interviews during your busiest time of year when things are likely to slip through the cracks. If business ramps up around the winter holidays, you might conduct interviews in the summer when you have time to focus on and implement staff feedback.
  • Separately from performance reviews: Stay interviews and performance reviews have different goals. During a stay interview, you want employees to feel comfortable sharing honest insights about the company—not stressing over their assessment or possible promotion or raise.
  • Annually!: Ideally, employers should perform stay interviews yearly to keep a pulse on the culture and trends. This will help you avoid issues and show your team that you genuinely want to hear their ideas and concerns.

Choose Appropriate Interviewers

Next, decide who should conduct stay interviews. 

In many companies, managers or supervisors have these conversations with their reports because they have direct daily access to and a strong rapport with their employees. If you have a large staff, you can streamline the stay interview process by having managers make them a regular part of their one-on-one meetings.

On the other hand, you may want a manager in a neutral position (i.e., one without direct oversight of the employee) to hold these discussions. This ensures an outside perspective and encourages employees to be honest in their feedback. 

Set the Tone

Stay interviews can be done in a casual setting to ensure the employee feels comfortable, such as over coffee or lunch or on a walk around the office property. The key is to give employees a heads-up and send a meeting invite with context, so they know what to expect.

Follow these tips to get the most from each conversation:

  • Use open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are more specific than closed ones, require more thought and time from the interviewee, and can be answered in various ways, allowing you to gain a deeper understanding of what your employee is thinking.
  • Be prepared for silence, but don’t feel you need to fill it. Sometimes, your employee will pause for a long time. Use these moments to think about what you want to say next. If the employee seems unsure, try rephrasing the question or asking another related/follow-up question.
  • Approach each interview with curiosity. Keep asking questions to dig deeper and learn directly from your employees! With the right questions, they’ll tell you what they need to improve productivity, engagement, and job satisfaction.

Sample Stay Interview Questions

Stay interview questions should focus on your employees’ work-life satisfaction. This will help you better understand whether they are happy and plan to stay. Instead of asking the standard “What do you like about working here?” question, try questions like:

  • Why do you choose to continue working here?
  • How has your job changed in the last six months? What’s been most rewarding about those changes?
  • What do you think is the best part of your job? The worst? If you could change one thing about it, what would it be?
  • What can we do to make you happier here at [company] over time—within our organization and externally? In other words, how can we support your plans for personal growth or professional development?

Next, ask questions about your company culture and ways you can improve it, such as:

  • What are the most important things for us to know?
  • What are the biggest challenges you face on a day-to-day basis?
  • What do you think makes our company unique compared to others in our industry—or compared to similar companies?
  • What do you wish we could change about our culture or environment? How can we improve it?

What’s Next? Stay Interview Follow-up

Of course, you should let the employee know you can’t make any promises, but you will consider their input and address any requests or concerns to the best of your ability.

And after conducting the stay interview, follow through! You’ll likely want to start with the easiest and most cost-effective adjustments. Perhaps you add healthy snacks to the breakroom or provide specific office equipment to make them more comfortable or productive. Then, handle any bigger issues the employee shared and address them appropriately.

Once you’ve made relevant changes or addressed their concerns, follow up with the employee to inform them. This will show them you take their feedback seriously.

Stay interviews are a great way to keep your best employees satisfied, engaged, and motivated. They’re also a powerful opportunity to get more information about what your employees think about their roles at work, what they like about working for you and the company, and where there might be opportunities for improvement. 

Not only does this help you identify any issues affecting employee retention, but it can also help you develop strategies for improving overall engagement within your organization.

Do you use stay interviews as part of your employee retention program? Or are you considering implementing them but want to know how to tailor them to your business? Contact BlueLion today at 603-818-4131 or info@bluelionllc.com to find out how our HR specialists can help you build a happy, healthy team that sticks around!

The information on this website, including its newsletters, is not, nor is it intended to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney or HR specialist for advice on your individual situation.