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Stay Interview Questions, Best Practices, & How to Conduct Them

Updated December 22, 2023


Topics Covered in This Comprehensive Guide on Stay Interviews
What is a Stay Interview?
How to Conduct a Stay Interview
Stay Interview Best Practices
Top Stay Interview Questions
The Truth About Stay Interviews
Get Professional Help for Stay Interviews


Retaining talented employees is crucial for any employer. Our Retention Reports have shown that lack of development opportunities is a leading cause of employee turnover, making it vital for organizations to invest in their workforce. One effective way to do this is through conducting stay interviews.


This blog will explore how to properly conduct stay interviews and provide tips to help employers attract and retain top talent. We’ll also address common misconceptions about employee retention and highlight the importance of effective management. For further assistance and help developing your Stay Interview Toolkit, you can reach out to our workforce experts today. We also have downloadable resources available for company leaders, such as our essential guide of stay interviews , which will help you develop and improve your stay interview best practices.


What Is a Stay Interview?

A stay interview is a detailed one-on-one conversation between an an employee and their employer, or outside party such as Work Institute, focused on understanding what keeps employees engaged and motivated in their current position. These interviews provide valuable insights into what employees enjoy about their work and the areas where companies can make improvements. When conducted in this manner, Stay Interview data is systematically collected and used to predict and prevent turnover amongst targeted employee segments within an organization. Employers can use the knowledge from these interviews to create a more desirable work environment, increasing employee engagement and retention while reducing turnover.


Stay Interviews are routinely defined as internal one-on-one conversations between a manager and their direct report.2 Formal, consistent and high-quality one-on-one conversations between managers and employees are critical to driving high retention and engagement. However, data is seldom formally captured for analyses, and it is highly possible that true intents and root causes aren’t revealed because employees aren’t being honest with their managers. Supplementing these regular conversations with high-quality Stay Interviews conducted by a third-party is critical to developing a strong retention strategy. Typically, Stay Interviews are used to assess intents of groups of employees who may be a higher risk of turnover or who are of higher-value to the company. These segments of employees could include top talent employees, high-potential employees, those employees in succession plans, highly-skilled technical workers and more.


How to Properly Conduct a Stay Interview

Conducting stay interviews is a vital part of employee retention. It’s important to consider who should lead them, what employees should receive them, and when to hold them. Let’s dive into the details.


Who Should Conduct Stay Interviews?

Sometimes, a trained HR professional or an external consultant may be more suitable, especially if the employee feels uncomfortable discussing specific topics with their immediate supervisor. But typically, stay interviews are conducted by an employee’s direct supervisor or a higher-level manager. The person conducting the interview should be familiar with the employee’s work and genuinely interested in their professional development.


The supervisor should keep the interview simple and start by thanking the employee for their time, explaining the interview’s purpose, and encouraging honest feedback. Asking questions about why they stay or might leave and what can be done to increase their job satisfaction can identify potential problem areas and improve engagement.


What Employees Should Receive Stay Interviews?

While focusing on high-performing or at-risk employees may be tempting, stay interviews should be conducted with diverse employees across departments, experience levels, and tenure. This inclusive approach ensures that you gather a comprehensive understanding of your organization’s employee engagement and satisfaction.


It is helpful to keep the questions open-ended and non-judgmental to create a comfortable atmosphere during the interview. Following up on stay interview feedback shows that action was taken and employee feedback is valued.


When Should Employers Conduct a Stay Interview?

Stay interviews can be conducted at any time but are most effective when incorporated into an employee’s regular performance review cycle. This timing provides a natural opportunity for discussing job-specific feedback and broader themes related to job satisfaction and career development. Alternatively, stay interviews can be conducted after significant organizational changes or during high turnover periods to gain insights into employee concerns and preferences.


Ensuring that the interviewer is trained in conducting stay interviews is crucial. This will help ensure that the interview is completed professionally and effectively.


Stay Interview Best Practices & Methodology

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to conducting stay interviews, so choosing a methodology that aligns with your organization’s culture and objectives is essential. Here are a few best practices and strategies you might consider:

  • External Method: Hiring an external consultant or firm for outsourcing stay interviews can provide a neutral perspective and encourage employees to speak more openly about their experiences.
  • Systematic Method: Creating a consistent set of stay interview questions and uniformly conducting stay interviews helps ensure comparability and allows for identifying trends over time. Aggregating that data to provide company leadership with summarized reports is an important part of the process.
  • Mixed Methodology: Combining structured stay interview questions with open-ended discussions can provide a comprehensive understanding of employee satisfaction, motivation, and potential areas for improvement. Multiple choice style surveys are becoming increasingly popular, but fail to tell the whole story.
  • Asking, “Why?”: Encourage employees to elaborate on their responses by asking follow-up questions that explore the underlying reasons behind their answers. This kind of open discussion provides the most honest feedback.
  • Using Qualitative Analytics: Analyze interview responses to identify common themes, patterns, and areas requiring targeted interventions or support.


What to Ask During Stay Interviews: 5 Critical Questions

Stay interviews are a unique conversation between managers and employees that help uncover what keeps team members engaged and motivated. It also addresses concerns or areas for improvement. Choosing the right stay interview questions is the key to conducting successful stay interviews and gaining helpful insight that will help keep your employees happy, productive, and committed to your company’s mission and goals.


Work Institute specializes is conducting systematic stay interviews for companies who are truly dedicated to increasing employee engagement and retention. Throughout our years of experience and tens of thousands of stay interviews conducted, we have found that the questions below are the most critical to ascertain a comprehensive overview of the situation.


How does the employee feel about their manager?

By exploring their sentiments towards their manager, we can gain valuable insights into their level of satisfaction, motivation, and overall engagement. Addressing any concerns or issues that arise from this question can lead to improved communication, leadership effectiveness, and contribute to higher employee retention rates overall. A positive relationship with a manager can lead to increased motivation, job engagement, and loyalty to the company. Alternatively, a negative relationship with a manager can result in decreased productivity, job dissatisfaction, and potential turnover.


How does the employee feel about the organization?

The employee’s feelings about the organization can vary greatly depending on a number of factors such as their job satisfaction, the company culture, their relationship with their colleagues and superiors, and the overall direction of the company. If the employee feels valued, supported, and respected, they are more likely to have a positive view of the organization. On the other hand, if they feel undervalued, overworked, or unappreciated, their feelings toward the organization may lean negatively. By addressing their concerns and fostering a positive organizational culture, we can enhance employee engagement, loyalty, and boost retention rates.


How does the employee feel about their team?

Questions about the employee’s team and its dynamics allow management to assess team cohesion, collaboration, and support, which are all critical factors that impact employee engagement and retention. Understanding their feelings about their team can help identify potential issues or areas for improvement, allowing us to implement strategies that promote a positive team environment, strengthen relationships, and ultimately increase employee retention rates.


How does the employee feel about their job?

Asking the employee for feedback on their job or role gives valuable insights into the employee’s satisfaction, motivation, and overall engagement. By understanding their sentiments towards their job, we can identify and address their concerns and align their job responsibilities with their skills and interests, leading to increased job satisfaction, higher productivity, and ultimately contributing to better employee retention.


Does the employee feel they have adequate growth opportunities?

This question addresses employees’ professional development and growth. You create an open dialogue about their career aspirations and goals by asking what they have learned and what new skills they want to acquire. This information can help design professional development programs that cater to employees’ needs and interests, fostering a culture of continuous learning and growth. Additionally, it demonstrates that you care about their professional development, which is crucial to employee retention.


What can the organization do to make the employee’s workplace experience better? Do they feel they can do their best work?

Asking this kind of question encourages employees to provide feedback and suggestions on how the organization can improve the overall work experience. It invites employees to share their thoughts on what changes can be made to enhance their job satisfaction and work environment, and potentially gain further insights into how the employee can function better in the organization. This feedback can prove invaluable in shaping organizational policies, working conditions, and employee support systems that contribute to a happier and more engaged workforce.


Does the employee intend to stay at the organization?

Assessing an employee’s level of commitment and loyalty through this question is crucial in identifying potential retention risks and areas for improvement. Knowing their intentions can help address any concerns or factors that may influence their decision to leave, leading to the implementation of targeted strategies that enhance job satisfaction, career growth opportunities, and work-life balance.


The Truth About Employee Stay Interviews

Employee retention is a complex issue that requires a nuanced approach to address. At Work Institute, we understand that every organization has unique needs and challenges, which is why we take a high-touch, deep-dive approach to conducting third party stay interviews. Our “Voice of the Employee” approach puts the interviewee in control of the conversation, allowing them to share their thoughts and stories in their own words. By avoiding restrictive questions, we can help you uncover why employees stay and how you can improve employee retention in your organization.


Unlike mining for gold, organizations can accurately measure the likelihood of new hires remaining for the long-term with Stay Interviews that deliver precise, data-driven evidence behind employee intentions to stay or leave. And with most, up to 90%, companies believing a new hire’s decision to stay with the company is decided in the first six months3, you need this evidence.


Stay Interviews Conducted by Third Parties Provide Clearer Data

Stay Interviews help you to identify the real risks of newly hired employees leaving by asking questions to uncover their challenges. This in turn offers you an opportunity to make the necessary changes so these employees stay for the long-term. When conducted effectively, data from Stay Interviews help organizations understand employee perceptions, including strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement in four key areas: Company, Managers or Direct Supervisors, Team and Job.


Stay Interviews are most effective when conducted by an outside firm, utilizing mixed methodology research. When conducted by an outside firm, Stay Interviews are likely to be more accurate. When organizations partner with a firm that utilizes Mixed Methods research, integrating open ended questions (qualitative) with quantitative ratings, the most true and actionable data is uncovered4. New hires are most likely not going to tell you or other company leadership when they plan to leave. However, organizations can be confident as they uncover ways to maintain the employment relationship with new hire top performers with Stay Interviews.


Get Professional Help Conducting Stay Interviews

Incorporating stay interviews into your employee engagement and retention strategy can yield invaluable insights. By actively seeking employees’ opinions and addressing their concerns, you can foster a positive work environment where employees feel heard, valued, and committed to your organization’s success.


When you’re ready to take the next step in improving employee retention and satisfaction, partner with Work Institute. Our team of experienced professionals supports you in developing and implementing effective stay interview processes tailored to your organization’s unique needs. From stay interview design and data analysis to crafting targeted solutions, Work Institute is here to help you create an engaged and loyal workforce that drives your organization forward.


Contact us today to learn more about our stay interview services and how they can benefit your business. Remember you can also download our guide to stay interviews in order to hone your companies ability to execute these interviews properly.




Article References
  1. Fynes, Jamie M. and Sears, Lindsay E. “Most Important Employee Reasons for Staying Across Length of Intended Stay: An Analysis of Qualitative Data from Employee Interviews.” Workplace Insights, vol. 1, 2017.
  2. Kaye, Beverly, and Sharon Jordan‐ “Stay interviews: The leader’s role in engaging and retaining talent.” Leader to Leader 2011.59 (2011): 8-13.
  3. Aberdeen Group. (2006). Onboarding Benchmark Report: Technology Drivers Help Improve the New Hire Experience.
  4. Hinrichs, John R. (1975). Measurement of Reasons for Resignation of Professionals: Questionnaire Versus Company and Consultant Exit Interviews. Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 60, No. 4, 530-532.


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