5 Key Questions for Effective “Stay” Interviews

We’re all familiar with Exit Interviews. They exist with the purpose of receiving feedback from employees parting with an organization as a way to make improvements that will better retain employees, and reduce turnover. But the exit interview is a reactive approach, and the employee has already made the decision to leave the company. Stay Interviews, while similar to Exit interviews, pose as a proactive strategy, one intended to improve and address concerns before an employee decides to leave a company.

Stay interviews are a structured discussion between a leader (someone who manages others, like an executive, a supervisor, a lead, etc.) and the individual employees whom they manage. The goal of the stay interview is to learn what specific actions the leader can take to strengthen the employee’s engagement, to gain insight into why employees remain with a company, and what may influence them to leave.

According to the “The Power of Stay Interviews for Engagement and Retention, Second Edition” by Richard P. Finnegan, the best stay interview outcomes occur when direct leaders conduct the interview, not HR, allowing them to hear directly from their employees how they would like to be managed for better engagement and retention. Stay interviews are intended to focus on what leaders can do for their employees, and leaders should avoid turning the conversation into performance-appraisal meetings, which should be done separately.

That same book, “The Power of Stay Interviews for Engagement and Retention, Second Edition” by Richard P. Finnegan, offered just five questions leaders can ask that make stay interviews effective.

  • What are you learning here, and what do you want to learn?
  • Why do you stay here?
  • When is the last time you thought about leaving us, and what prompted it?
  • What can I do to make your job better for you?
  • What do you look forward to each day when you commute to work?

Stay interviews provide several benefits. For one, supervisor-employee relationships influence an employees longevity with a company. Employees who hear from their direct supervisors that they care about them and want to actively work together to help them grow with the company is an important ingredient for retention.

Secondly, stay interviews can help build trust amongst employees and supervisors. They give leaders the opportunity to ask questions, listen to their employees wants and needs, communicate openly and follow up on employee requests. Stay interviews can help build new connections between employees and their leaders, and can result in employees feeling more comfortable approaching them with concerns. Many times in exit interviews, employees share what lead to their decision to leave, often time the reasons could have been addressed before it escalated to the employee parting with the company.

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