Stay Interviews: Retention Benefits, Tips, and Questions to Ask - Netchex
Employee Engagement
May 16, 2023

Stay Interviews: Retention Benefits, Tips, and Questions to Ask

Stay Interviews: Retention Benefits, Tips, and Questions to Ask


Retention is a top priority in most HR departments. Recruiting new employees is expensive and time consuming. Turnover problems will continue if employees don’t feel engaged. The workers who feel engaged are more motivated and less likely to leave on short notice. An employee engagement survey is one of the best tools for measuring and tracking engagement.

Everyone interviews candidates before hiring, and exit interviews are recognized as one of the essential steps of offboarding. Why not collect that kind of feedback from the experienced employees who aren’t onboarding or leaving your company? Stay interviews show a real commitment to workers and allow you to boost retention rates.

What is a stay interview?

Unlike an exit interview, which often looks back over past grievances, a stay interview looks to the future and ways the company can better support employees and growth. Stay interviews have the primary goal of encouraging high performing workers to stay at the company.

If you use the 9-box grid to identify employees with untapped potential, then stay interviews can find ways to boost performance in some of those workers when used in conjunction with performance management software.

Top five reasons to conduct stay interviews

Stay interviews have gotten attention in the news recently because of companies desperate to reduce turnover. But are they another passing fad or a worthwhile use of company time and resources? Here are five reasons to seriously consider utilizing stay interviews at your company:

Improve employee engagement

Nobody wants to be treated like a number. Stay interviews show that your managers value individual employees and think about their professional development. Stay interviews help employees visualize a career path with continued growth at your company, and those workers have renewed motivation to become more engaged.

Respond proactively to employee turnover

Your response to turnover should never be slow and reactionary. It’s tempting to survey workers or create a committee to analyze the potential causes of turnover, but neither of those approaches give workers an immediate reason to stay.

Stay interviews serve the dual purpose of collecting employee feedback while at the same time demonstrating your investment in workers. You can actively respond to the turnover problem without waiting for detailed reports about the variables that might be involved.

Prioritize the retention of reliable workers

Too many companies accept a high level of turnover or “churn” as an inevitable cost of doing business. Stay interviews are practical investments in retention without the long term commitment of raises or expensive benefits.

The interview format is flexible depending on each worker’s past performance and judged potential. Are your underperforming workers unhappy in this department or role? Would they benefit from cross-training with an LMS to try a different role at the company? Managers will naturally be more flexible when it comes to keeping the star talent happy.

Reduce and avoid the higher costs of recruiting

When you boost retention, you don’t need to hire as many replacements. It’s true that stay interviews take some time away from other tasks, and personal incentives can add further costs, but recruiting is consistently more expensive.

According to Indeed, “most companies can expect to pay between $4,000 and $20,000 to hire a new employee, not including salary and benefits.” Since larger companies will always have some percentage of turnover, it makes sense to keep the recruiting cost as low as possible.

Uncover new opportunities

The stay interview process isn’t just about praising and pampering your favorite workers. The practical insights into employee motivation have far more potential. You may be able to address widespread frustrations and conflicts.

Develop your workers with high potential, and they may add to company growth in surprising ways. Upskilling is key to retention, but it also adds to the potential productivity of your workforce.

Tips for Stay Interviews

How do you actually implement stay interviews? HR and managers already understand hiring and exit interviews, but stay interviews need a different attitude and focus.

Communication and expectations

The way you present stay interviews will shape how employees approach the meeting. If you’ll only meet with high performing workers, then there’s no need to explain the new initiative to everyone else.

Schedule interviews in advance and give participants a basic idea of what to expect, namely a discussion of their personal work life and development. Without clear expectations, some workers will be afraid that it’s a disciplinary meeting or hopeful about a promotion.

Despite the objective, don’t call it a ‘stay interview’

The term “stay interview” isn’t appropriate for describing and scheduling the meetings with employees. The term helps HR staff and managers understand the key purpose of retention, but that kind of transparency can be counterproductive with workers. Depending on your focus, the meetings might be called professional development or job satisfaction interviews.

Keep it separate from normal 1-on-1’s and performance evaluations

Schedule stay interviews as far away from performance reviews as feasible, even if that means 6 months apart. Normal one-on-ones with managers might include a couple of similar points, but stay interviews should be more intensely focused on the individual worker’s engagement and development. 

7 Must-Haves for Successful Employee Review Process

Prioritize two-way communication

Managers should spend the vast majority of stay interview time listening—around 80 percent. The interview goals and follow-up questions may need to be explained, but much of the real value comes from listening carefully enough to understand workers. If subordinates don’t feel like they can speak freely to managers, then you need to work on building trust and opening communication channels. 

Top Ten Tips for Improving HR Communication

Take your time

Generally from 20 minutes to an hour, stay interviews shouldn’t feel rushed or formulaic. Workers shouldn’t feel like you’re going down a cookie-cutter checklist. Each meeting adapts to the goals and priorities of each employee. 

10 questions to ask during stay interviews

  • What do you look forward to at work every day?
  • What do you dislike about work every day?
  • What factors contribute to you doing your best work?
  • How would you rate our work-life balance? How could it be improved?
  • What do you think of our employees recognition program?
  • How do you feel about your professional development? What do you dislike?
  • Are there talents you have that you don’t get to use in your position?
  • What did you love about your last job that you no longer have?
  • What do you think about on your way to work and on the way home?
  • Has there been a situation that made you consider resigning?

Discover how Netchex can help with stay interviews and overall retention:

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