Stay Interview

Help Your Managers Understand Why Employees Stay and Why They Might Leave

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1. What do you look forward to when commuting to work?

This question causes the employee to focus on their daily duties and challenges. Employee loyalty and engagement boil down to the relationship with their colleagues and how much they enjoy their work. Sometimes these considerations outstrip pay and benefits on the priority ladder.

Probe the employee further by asking for examples, specific instances, and preferences.

2. What have you learned here, and what would you wish to learn?

This question invites the employee to open up about their dreams and aspirations. It offers insights into their career objective and professional development. You can easily classify employees according to ambition levels, interests, and engagement.

Ask the employee about jobs they find attractive in the company and the skills necessary to perform them. Ask them to name the skills they'd have to build to secure those roles.

3. Why Do You Stay with Us?

Surprisingly, most employees are stunned by this simple question. That's because they've never thought about it. Managers should allow workers some time to think it over but stubbornly require an answer. The answer should pinpoint what the employee values about their job.

Probe the worker to qualify the answer. Why is this so important to you? Do you stay for one reason or several reasons? If you have to pick the primary reason you stay here, what would it be?

4. When was the last time you thought of leaving, and what prompted the desire?

It's only natural for employees to think about leaving their employers. This blunt question helps to jump-start the conversation. Prompt the employee to give a detailed answer. What incidence leads them to think of quitting? What can I do to improve the situation or avoid a similar occurrence? Can you now rate the incident on a scale of 1 to 10?

5. What can I do to make your work better?

This question allows the employee to air grievances and name the obstacle they face when discharging their duties. The manager should take note and avoid making a judgement or getting defensive. They should avoid coming off as if they can't take feedback.

You can further probe the employee by asking, what can I do to manage you better? Do I let you know when you're on a winning streak? Do I help you do your job better?

Pair each question with strong probes so the employee can paint a clear picture. Ensure there's a concrete and actionable answer to each of the questions.

How to use this template

Having a stay interview template can help you avoid this pitfall that's causing U.S. businesses to lose $1 trillion a year.

A 2019 Gallup report indicates that U.S. businesses grapple with employee turnover, costing them a trillion dollars every year.

The problem is likely to compound in the post-pandemic job market. A 2021 Bureau of Labor Statistics report indicates a 57% employee turnover across all industries. And it gets worse. It costs at least $1,500 to replace minimum wage workers and up to 60% of their annual salary to replace a full-time employee.

Conducting stay interviews can help you improve job satisfaction and worker engagement, and ultimately lower employee turnover.  

What is a Stay Interview?

A stay interview is a human resource tool to help understand why your employees, especially high performers, choose to stay with you. It's more of an informal conversation than an interview. The manager asks, mostly top-performing employees, a series of preset questions.

Despite what the name suggests, the primary goal of a stay interview isn't to keep your employees from leaving. These interviews are an incredible way to solicit feedback from your employees. The feedback offers deep insights into employee engagement and job satisfaction.

Stay interviews are remarkably different from exit interviews in that they're conducted with current employees. Still, stay interviews are highly effective in reducing employee turnover. But only if you use the feedback to create an enabling working environment and corporate culture.    

Why Conduct a Stay Interview?

Stay interviews provide a window into what your employees genuinely desire. It allows you to have a heartfelt conversation with your workers. Acting on the honest feedback from a stay interview can go a long way in helping your employee retention rate.

Here are some additional benefits that will result from conducting stay interviews:

Improve Employee Retention

Employees go to great lengths to build their knowledge and hone their skills. They hope to be recognized and adequately compensated for their time and expertise. If not, they're quick to leave an employer who doesn't recognize and appreciate their worth.

Implementing a peer reward program can improve employee engagement and job satisfaction. Happy employees are loyal, productive, and likely to stick with you for a long time, lowering your employee turnover rate.

Gain Valuable Employee Feedback

Asking employees to detail their experience working for your company removes bias and misconceptions. Corporate might think people love the company for its corporate culture, a diverse range of projects, camaraderie, and more.

But in reality, the employees might prefer flexible hours, autonomy, and professional development opportunities. The feedback for a stay interview clarifies the air and keeps you from flying blind.  

Bolster Employee Engagement and Satisfaction

Low job satisfaction creates an army of disengaged employees. Stay interviews let you zero in on the pain points and take corrective measures long before they compound. You get to identify the reasons that drive employees to resign or decamp to the competition.

Stay interviews only work when employees trust their manager. You also need to act on the information you receive to keep the employees engaged.

How to Conduct a Stay Interview

Stay interviews are a delicate affair because they call for honest feedback from your employees. Therefore, there must be an element of trust and professional respect between the manager and the employees.

Here are some best practices when conducting a stay interview

  • Let the managers conduct the interview: It's easier for managers to interview their direct reports. Managers are likely to have a solid and trusting relationship with the employees. Be sure to train your managers on how to conduct the stay interviews.
  • Keep them small: Stay interviews should focus on the top-performers, long-serving employees, and those with high potential.
  • Hold stay interviews regularly: There are no rigid or fixed rules, but you should schedule the stay interviews at least once a year.
  • Don't lump them with regular reviews: Stay interviews have different goals and objects. Don't tuck them into the regular performance reviews. Limit the candidates to your crème-de-la crème and schedule them as separate activities.
  • Ensure they have a structure: Draft a stay interview template and refine it to suit your specific needs. Each interview should follow the same format and feature the same questions.
  • Pick your questions carefully: Formulate questions that allow managers to probe workers for more information. Use open-ended questions and avoid yes/no or close-ended ones.
  • Summarize each interview: Managers should summarize the reasons driving employees to stay or tempting them to leave to avoid misunderstandings.
  • Keep an eye out for trends and patterns: Pay special attention to recurring reasons why employees choose to stay or leave. You can amplify your strengths and take corrective measures to mitigate the negative factors.
  • Take action: A stay interview is only helpful if you act on the feedback you receive. It's a clear indication that you value your employees and take their needs seriously.

Best Stay Interview Questions

The best stay interview questions cover five categories that provide the best feedback for your company. They include

  1. The employee
  2. The Job
  3. The workplace culture
  4. The workplace environment
  5. The technology

Subsequently, you can only need five questions to make your stay interviews effective. Naturally, you follow up each question with strong probing questions to get all the pertinent information. Only then can you create effective individualized employee retention and engagement plans.


Stay interviews are vital in building a highly productive team. These interviews allow you to create an enabling work environment that inspires employee loyalty and trust. Acting on feedback from the stay interviews bolsters your ability to retain top talents while keeping them happy and productive.

Asking the right questions allows the employees to open up about their dreams, aspirations, and career goals. It also offers insights into the challenges they face so you can take quick corrective action.

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