The Stay Interview
22 Nov 2017
POSTED BY: Admin | Comments: 0

By: Ashley Topuschak

Everyone has had a job interview and you’ve likely heard of the exit interview but how about the stay interview?  It’s a simple and valuable shift.  Why wait until employees are heading out the door to ask what they think in a one-on-one conversation?  Instead have those conversations while they are still with the organization and can provide insight into what will keep them - not just retained but also as engaged members of your team.


The Stay Interview Defined

A one-on-one conversation between managers and their employees to hear from the employee about what is important to them, receive feedback on how the organization can better engage them and identify their motivations for not leaving.




The stay interview is held by the employee’s direct manager or supervisor.  If your organization does have HR, their role is to support the process.  HR doesn’t conduct the meetings. Instead they can support by providing managers with an overview of the process or training on how to hold the conversations effectively.



It is a one-on-one conversation designed to build trust between the employee and their manager so that the employee feels comfortable sharing their candid feedback and constructive suggestions.  The conversation is structured, brief and focused.  It doesn’t have to be long - even 20 minutes can be effective.  The manager’s role is to ask questions and listen without reacting.  The manager, however, can still have a role in redirecting.  For example, just as the manager is not making it a conversation about performance, it is typically not the place for extended discussions about pay concerns.  Of course any such concerns have validity and managers need to acknowledge them but the conversation needs to move beyond pay.  The reason is that pay is only one component of engagement at work and valuable discussion will come from other topics that are within the manager’s control. 

The kinds of questions to ask can include ones such as:

  • When you are coming into work each day, what do you look forward to?
  • What keeps you working here?
  • If you could change something about your job, what would that be?
  • When was the last time you thought about leaving?  What prompted it?
  • What can I do to best support you? What can I stop, start or continue as your manager to make your experience at work better?

These questions are only the starting point.  Managers need to be comfortable asking probing questions that can break through barriers that employees may present and get to the underlying thoughts.  One way to make employees feel more comfortable is to let them know the questions in advance so they can put some thought into it and think not only of any challenges, but also their constructive input and personal responsibility on how to address.

Stay interviews and employee surveys can work hand in hand as ways to get feedback.  The interview allows for more nuance as to what is discovered and also tells employees that they are important and their individual feedback is valued.

Just as with interviewing prospective employees, getting good at this type of interview takes practice.  So be patient and get comfortable with what might be some silence or sparse conversations to begin.



They can be held more regularly if an organization chooses but scheduled once or twice a year at minimum.  For a new employee you can hold the meeting at the end of the orientation and onboarding and add questions to check in on that process as well. 

Keep in mind they are a different conversation than one about employee performance so you don’t need to attach this conversation to an annual review.  They are also broader than any discussions about career goals that a supervisor holds with an employee.     

One caveat to holding stay interviews is that they will have more value for an organization if there is already a solid sense of trust between employees and management.  If this is not the case, focus first on holding anonymous employee surveys and addressing concerns raised or lead other initiatives that develop a foundation of trust.   For more information on Employee Satisfaction Surveys check out SARC’s Learning Central HR Sample Member Resources.  The Leap program also offers a session on Fostering an Effective Team.



With the goal to elicit meaningful comments from employees, hold the meeting somewhere where they will feel more comfortable.  For some employees this won’t be in their manager’s office.   It does need to be a place where people can have open conversations free of distractions.   



Ultimately the purpose of a stay interview is to improve retention.  In combination with employee surveys, stay interviews can show trends across the organization that when addressed organizationally can improve overall retention.  Stay interviews also provide the opportunity to identify a plan that both you and the employee can take concrete steps to address.  Don’t be intimidated by the idea.  Very often it is small things that can create meaningful engagement with individual employees that you never would have suspected if you hadn’t asked.


Are you looking for more information on Retention Strategy Development? SARC’s Human Resources Consultant is available free of charge to assist Regular and Associate Members who would like to have additional expertise on a variety of HR topics. Learn more here.

Want to read more?  Check out the book The Power of Stay Interviews for Engagement & Retention by Dick Finnegan.

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