What is a stay interview?
A stay interview is conducted with current employees to assess their job satisfaction and why they’re staying with your company. You typically have a list of questions to ask, but it can also be an informal interaction where you encourage the employee to share as much as they want. The questions you ask can help you learn what makes your company a good place to work and what you can work on to increase employee retention.
Benefits of conducting stay interviews
Conducting stay or retention interviews adds another responsibility to your management or HR team, but they can pay off for your company.
Some benefits of conducting stay interviews include:
- Showing your employees that you care about their thoughts and feelings regarding work
- Helping to build trust with your employees
- Increasing the communication between you and your employees
- Allowing for a mutual conversation between you and an employee regarding their current stance on work
- Providing viable information needed to make positive changes within the workplace
- Revealing patterns and data related to your employee turnover rates
- Identifying employees who aren’t happy and might need more support
Related: How to Reduce Employee Turnover
How to conduct effective stay interviews
You’ve decided to implement stay interviews, but how do you get started?
The following steps can help you conduct effective stay interviews:
- Schedule stay interviews.
- Let employees know why they’re being interviewed and what to expect.
- Conduct stay interviews in a safe and comfortable environment.
- Ask the right stay interview questions.
- Express your appreciation for the employee.
- Follow up after the interviews.
- Use the information gathered to make positive changes.
1. Schedule stay interviews
Schedule your stay interviews in advance, and inform your employees of when they can expect to be interviewed. This gives employees time to prepare and ensures they aren’t taken by surprise when called in for a retention interview. Getting them on your calendar also ensures you save enough time in your schedule to properly conduct the interviews.
2. Let employees know why they’re being interviewed and what to expect
Explain to your employees what this type of interview is and why you’re doing them. You should also inform your employees of what to anticipate during the interview. Being open about the purpose of these interviews helps to build trust and allows them to come to the interview with helpful answers and information.
3. Conduct stay interviews in a safe and comfortable environment
Holding these conversations in a neutral environment can help employees feel more comfortable and open. For example, rather than conducting interviews in your office with the door closed, consider conducting them in the employee’s office, an empty conference room or even a nearby coffee shop. Asking the interviewee for suggestions can ensure they feel comfortable. The more comfortable your staff feels, the more likely they are to share honestly and openly, which makes the info you gather more useful.
4. Ask the right stay interview questions
Asking the right retention interview questions may be the most important component of the process. The questions you ask should be beneficial to your company and the employee, and they should be asked in a way that encourages employees to be open and honest. Your stay interview questions should also convey that you care about your employees’ opinions and what they say will be taken seriously. Open-ended questions are ideal because they encourage the interviewee to share more than just a simple yes or no.
5. Express your appreciation for the employee
Expressing your appreciation for participating in the interview and the work they do in general can make it a more positive experience. You could say something like, “We really appreciate your hard work in your position as [employee’s position], and you’re truly a valued employee at [company name].”
6. Follow up after the interviews
Following up with employees after the interview shows that you appreciated their time and you were truly listening during the interview. A follow-up email with a mention of something specific discussed should suffice.
7. Use the information gathered to make positive changes
Taking notes and using the information to make positive changes within your organization is key to getting the most out of stay interviews. Decide how you’ll use the information ahead of time, and take action as soon as the interviews are complete to show you’re serious about improving the company.
Examples of stay interview questions to ask
You can tailor your questions and conversation starters based on the information you want to know. If you already have areas of concern, you might include those topics.
Here are some general retention interview questions to ask:
- What’s the most exciting part of your job?
- What aspect of your job do you wish you could change?
- What factors contribute to you doing your best work?
- How could your work-life balance be improved?
- What additional resources or professional development opportunities would be useful to you?
- What situations have made you consider resigning?
- Are there talents you have that you don’t get to use in your position?
- What could the company improve about employee recognition?
- Are there additional benefits you would like to see?
Best practices for stay interviews
The following are a few best practices to keep in mind when conducting stay interviews:
- Schedule it separately. Don’t combine stay interviews with performance reviews. Each should have its own time to ensure the focus is solely on its purpose.
- Use a variety of questions. Ask questions that address both the positives and negatives of an employee’s position, as well as questions about working for the company as a whole.
- Have direct supervisors conduct interviews. Employees usually have the closest relationship with the people who manage them directly, which can reveal more honest answers.
- Keep an open mind. It’s easy to think suggestions won’t work or get offended if the employee shares negative thoughts. Don’t dismiss or trivialize an employee’s answers or opinions, even if you don’t agree with them.
- Spend most of the time listening. Your questions get the conversation going, but your main role is to absorb the information being shared. Avoid interrupting while a staff member is sharing. Wait until they’re done to ask follow-up questions if necessary.
- Don’t rush. You should expect to spend at least 30 minutes with each employee. Some might only last 15 to 20 minutes, while others could last an hour.
- Spot patterns. Seeing multiple people share the same ideas, whether positive or negative, helps you identify the things you should pay the most attention to.
- Acknowledge ideas. When changes are made, let the employees who contributed to the changes know and show appreciation for their input.
Frequently asked questions about stay interviews
What should not be asked in a stay interview?
You should avoid asking questions that would result in only a “yes” or “no” answer. These types of answers don’t provide quality information and don’t let employees expand on their opinions and feelings. Asking questions related to the employee’s salary should also be avoided and saved for performance reviews.
How do I know if my company is ready for stay interviews?
If your current company culture promotes and fosters trust and open communication, your organization is likely ready to implement stay interviews. If your company lacks these qualities, it may be best to spend time working on improving communication and trust first. This can help ensure that employees go into the interview with an open mind and willingness to help, as opposed to being on guard and wary of the interviews.
What is the difference between a stay interview and an exit interview?
One big difference between exit interviews and stay interviews is when they happen. You can conduct a stay interview at any time with any of your current employees. Exit interviews are scheduled when an employee leaves the company. It’s typically one of the last steps the employee completes before exiting. Both types of interviews can give you insight that can help you improve the company. Exit interviews often focus on why the person is leaving and what you can change to retain employees in the future.
Do all employees have to be interviewed?
You don’t need to include all employees in stay interviews, but it can be beneficial. Employees who have been there the longest and perform well consistently often have more insight. Try to include a variety of employees from different departments and backgrounds to get varying opinions. Keep in mind that some employees might feel left out if you don’t interview them or you consistently choose the same people to interview.