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Stay Interviews: What are They, Why They’re Important, and 50 Example Questions

November 10, 2023

We’ve all heard of exit interviews – it’s the time HR gets to know why people have chosen to go elsewhere. These interviews are great for learning how to potentially prevent future turnover. But what they can’t do is give you an opportunity to fix issues before your employee makes it to the exit interview.

With voluntary turnover still above pre-pandemic levels, companies everywhere have engagement and retention on the mind.

And while there are many strategies aimed at improving employee retention, one way to help prevent the need for exit interviews is with stay interviews.

What Are Stay Interviews

Stay interviews are meetings that occur between manager and employee with the intention of gaining an understanding of why current employees continue to stay with the company. Typically, these meetings take place with high-performing employees, whose skill set is valuable to the company.

A stay interview isn't used as a way to persuade employees who are thinking about leaving, but rather as a tool to prevent them from getting to that point. Conducting a stay interview is about gathering valuable employee feedback and using that information to help employees feel valued, improve employee morale, satisfaction, and engagement.


Why Conduct Stay Interviews

Typically, the main purpose for stay interviews is to reduce employee turnover and improve retention, but there are other benefits as well.


Reduce Voluntary Turnover

Stay interviews can be a great way to address issues before they turn into reasons to leave, ultimately improving employee retention. For example, you may have someone on your team who prefers a quiet work environment, but they’re seated next to the sales team. They may spend their day quietly frustrated by the constant calls and meetings but may feel like it’s too trivial to bring up to their boss.

A stay interview could be the perfect opportunity to address this frustration neutrally and give this employee a new seat or more days working from home. It may sound like a small issue to you, but you never know what could be making your employees’ work experience unpleasant. Giving your team one less reason to be unhappy is always a good thing when it comes to improving retention.


Improved Morale and Engagement

When employees feel that their voices are heard and their concerns are addressed, it can boost their morale and increase their engagement with their work and the organization.


Gain Valuable Insights

Even the best managers may not know exactly why their employees like their jobs. Maybe a previous employee in their role liked the challenging projects associated with the job. This could lead you to believe that’s a major draw to the role. But you may come to find your new employee mostly appreciates the ability to make decisions autonomously.

Simply put, you won’t know until you ask and stay interviews are a great way to ask. Without knowing this information, it could be all too easy to shift your employee’s responsibilities away from what they actually enjoy doing.


Build Trust

Stay interviews can also help build trust between you and your employees. Trust is an inevitable outcome when stay interviews are conducted well. First, your employee recognizes that you value them to even have the stay interview in the first place. Then, if they discuss any issues or suggestions and see them implemented, they learn that you’re truly invested in their growth, wellbeing, and success with the company.

The key is to not only talk at these interviews, though. You will need to make reasonable changes so your employee can build that trust. And if you can’t make the changes they suggest, you’ll need to follow up and explain why you aren’t able to do so. Without this action and explanation, you’ll risk losing trust with your team.


Improve Employee Engagement

When done right, a stay interview strategy will naturally lead to improved engagement. By understanding what matters to individual employees, organizations can create personalized strategies to keep them satisfied and engaged.

From improved trust, to conflict resolution, to career development, stay interviews keep employees engaged longer, therefore improving employee retention rate as well.


Early Issue Resolution:

Stay interviews can uncover issues or concerns before they escalate. Addressing these concerns proactively can prevent them from becoming major problems that lead to turnover.


RELATED: How to Reduce Employee Turnover: 3 Steps for Keeping Your Top Talent


Talent Development:

These interviews can also identify opportunities for skill development and career growth that may encourage employees to stay with the organization.


Succession Planning:

Identifying employees' long-term career aspirations through stay interviews can help organizations plan for succession and talent development, ensuring a pipeline of future leaders.


Cost Savings:

Employee turnover is expensive in terms of recruitment, onboarding, and lost productivity. Reducing turnover through stay interviews can lead to cost savings.


Competitive Advantage:

A stable and engaged workforce can give an organization a competitive edge. Satisfied employees are more likely to deliver high-quality work and provide excellent customer service.


Positive Organizational Culture:

Conducting stay interviews demonstrates that the organization values its employees and is committed to their well-being, which can contribute to employee satisfaction and a positive organizational culture.


How to Conduct Stay Interviews

It’s important to go into a stay interview prepared so you’re sure to get the most value out of it. Here are some tips for ensuring your stay interview is as productive as possible.


Set Objectives

When establishing a stay interview program, start by defining the goals and objectives. Understand what you want to achieve, whether it's identifying retention risks, improving engagement, or gathering feedback to make necessary changes.

Then, clearly communicate the purpose of the stay interview to employees. Assure them that the conversations will be confidential and focused on their job satisfaction and future within the organization.


Bring an open mind.

Whether it's an informal conversation or formal meeting, going in with an open mind will set the tone for honesty and progress.

Try approaching the meeting with a “Why not?” mindset versus a “That could never be done here” mindset. This will not only help your employee feel safe expressing their ideas, but it can also help lead to great ideas that benefit the whole team.


Emphasize the team efforts with word choice.

Research has shown that leaders who tend to give credit rather than take it are perceived as more effective leaders. One way to embody this characteristic is with intentional word choices.

When discussing work during a stay interview, emphasize the team accomplishments by using words like “we” and "us" over “I” or “they.” Highlight the group effort and express gratitude for the work the whole team does.


Be prepared to make reasonable changes.

When it comes to a stay interview initiative, the interview itself is only the beginning. Recognize that you may need to change some things and be ready to do so.

Keep in mind that if you’re not ready to make changes yet, consider postponing the interview or discussing the timeline for changes to begin. Transparency is key.


Be ready to follow up.

An effective stay interview strategy will require commitment. Expect to have additional conversations about progress, bottlenecks, and any adjustments that need to be made to a request.


Utilize technology.

You may choose to conduct your stay interview in person or digitally, using a employee survey tool. In person conversations will allow for elaboration and further conversation. However, you risk not receiving totally genuine responses.

An employee engagement survey solution can provide anonymity, and therefore more truthful responses. But this route can remove the ability to follow up with specific individuals and dive deeper into their answers. A best-of-both worlds solution may be to start with anonymous survey and then begin in-person interviews later. Companies will need to determine which route is best for their needs.




Best Stay Interview Questions

Of course, companies will need to evaluate what type of information is most valuable for them and come up with stay interview questions to ask that support their priorities.

We've compiled some questions you can use either as a stay interview template or as a starting point and tailor them to your specific organization and the individual employee's situation.


Stay Interview Questions About Employee Satisfaction

What do you look forward to most coming to work each day?

Is there anything you dread about your job? If so, what?

Can you describe your most satisfying or rewarding experiences at work in the past year?

When was the last time you thought about leaving the company or looking for a new job?

What prompted you to think about leaving?

What would tempt you to leave?

Would you recommend working here to friends or family?

Do you find your work meaningful?

Are there aspects of your job that you find particularly engaging or fulfilling?

What keeps you working here?


Stay Interview Questions About the Job and Professional Development

What initially attracted you to this company, and what has kept you here?

How would you describe your dream job?

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Is there anything you wish was a part of your job?

Is there anything you wish wasn’t a part of your job?

What are your career aspirations, both short-term and long-term?

Is there an area, aspect, or skill of your job that you’d like to develop further?

Which of your skills/talents are not used in your role?

Are there any tools, resources, or support you feel you need to perform your job more effectively?

Do you feel you have room to grow and develop in this role?

Do you feel you have a healthy work/life balance?

If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?

What would make your job more satisfying?


Stay Interview Questions About Company Culture

How would you describe our company culture in 3 words?

Do you feel you’re adequately recognized for your efforts?

How can we better recognize and reward your contributions to the organization?

Are you being recognized in a way that resonates with you? If not, how would you like to be recognized?

Is there anything you see other departments doing that we should try?

Is there anything we should be doing more of as a company?

Is there anything we should be doing less of/anything that’s a distraction?

Is there anything you’d change about our company culture?

Have you noticed any issues or inequities you’d like to mention?

Do you feel the company prioritizes work/life balance?


Stay Interview Questions About Management/Leadership

Do you feel like you understand what is expected of you?

Are you given clear and attainable goals?

What could your manager do better?

What should your manager be doing more of?

Are you given enough work? Are you given too much work?

Do you feel empowered/trusted in your role?

Do you feel seen as a person rather than just an employee?

Is your manager accessible and approachable?


General Stay Interview Questions

Is there anything we should change, add, or remove from our office space?

Do you have any concerns or suggestions related to the work environment, team dynamics, or the overall workplace culture?

Which tools or methods should we stop using?

How do you feel about our hybrid/work from home/hybrid model?

Do you feel connected to your colleagues?

What could we be doing better?

How are our benefits/perks?

Do you feel your employee wellness is supported at work? Emotionally, physically, and mentally?

Is there anything else you'd like to share with us regarding your job satisfaction and your future with the company?


Next Steps

Stay interviews are crucial to knowing what your direct reports think about the environment they work in each day. They can detect early signs of trouble and prevent small issues and annoyances from snowballing into reasons to leave.

The Terryberry Be Engaged Platform offers a comprehensive solution that can host your employee engagement efforts, including milestone and service awards, peer-to-peer social recognition, feedback and communication, and performance and incentive rewards.

Pulse Survey Software:

Be Heard is an employee survey solution that's designed to enhance your employee experience while fueling business performance.


Service Awards and Performance Awards:

Recognize and reward employees based on years of service awards, anniversaries, or performance.


Social Recognition:

Empower your employees and managers to recognize their peers and celebrate successes with an easy-to-use social recognition application.


Feedback and Communication:

Unlock improved feedback and communications with employee and customer feedback solutions.


Wellness Programs: 

We make it easy to run wellness programs and activity challenges that increase engagement, expand corporate health, and build team camaraderie.

Contact Us

Ready to learn more? Schedule a demo with our team to get a hands-on walkthrough of how Terryberry can transform the culture of your workplace.