Workforce Management

How to Use Stay Interviews to Contend with Employee Turnover

manager doing stay interview with employee

Employee turnover is a constant and costly problem – according to The Center for American Progress, the cost of turnover for employees who earn $75,000 or less is approximately 20% of their salary. The cost of replacing a highly skilled executive can cost your organization up to 213% of their annual salary!

You may have heard of or conducted an exit interview before, and while they are helpful in getting information about what your company can change in the future, it’s a little too late to retain that employee. This is where a stay interview comes into play, where your managers can ask their current employees what keeps them working for your company.   

In this article, we’ll explore the stay interview concept and give tips on how to get the most out of them at your organization. 

What Is a Stay Interview?

Stay interviews are a conversation had between an employee and their manager to help understand why the employee continues working at the company or why they may be thinking about leaving.  

The result of a stay interview is information that the organization can utilize to improve in areas like communication, leadership, and developing their people to ultimately retain top talent.   

Advantages of a Stay Interview

Increased Employee Engagement: Checking in with current employees about what they like and dislike about working for your company is a great way to get intel. Whenever a stay interview is conducted it increases the employees’ feeling of worth. When they are asked questions about their experiences, they feel heard and that their opinions are truly valued. The information their manager receives will be of great help to current and future employees.

Our ebook on employee engagement is full of strategies for improving the experience of your most important asset – your people!

Identify Areas for Learning: Conducting a stay interview is a great way to discover learning and development opportunities. These opportunities may be for the individual employee, manager, or it may uncover a potential L&D opportunity for the entire department. For example, if you receive feedback that there are communication issues among teams this is something managers can partner with the learning and development department to address as the next development initiative.

Bring Positive Change: When problems are identified in a stay interview, both the employee and leader determine actionable items for moving forward. This ensures that improvements are constantly being made by both employees and employers.

Employee Retention: Creating open lines of communication combined with an engaging employee experience is sure to retain your best talent.

If you need help driving engagement, tune into Employees Don’t Want a Lot: Retain Talent & Drive Results With the Right Employee Experience. Lori Kleiman will show you how to create a program that drives results for your business through long-term retention of your top talent.

Examples of Questions to Ask

In an effective stay interview, managers ask structured questions in a casual and conversational manner. Managers should be ready to ask open-ended questions and listen to gather information needed to make changes.

The following are examples of questions leaders may ask their employees in a stay interview:

  • What do you look forward to at work every day? 
  • What would you like to learn outside of your current skill set?
  • What keeps you working here? 
  • How happy are you working here on a scale of 1-10? 
  • What would it take for that number to be a 10?  
  • What opportunities would you like to have outside of your normal duties?
  • What are you passionate about? 
  • How do you like to be managed? 
  • How do you like to be recognized? 
  • Which soft skills would you consider to be your strong suit and which do you think you need more development on? 
  • How would you explain our company culture? 
  • What is your least favorite part of the job? 
  • What might tempt you to leave? 
  • Have you actively searched for a different job in the past year? Why were you wanting to leave? 

How to Conduct a Stay Interview

Stay interviews are typically conducted by your managers with their direct reports. Here are a few tips to help get their first interviews scheduled.

Schedule for 30 minutes to One Hour

Stay interviews don’t have to be too long, just long enough to get the information you’re wanting. It’s recommended your managers keep them between 30 minutes to one hour. These are designed to be focused, structured conversations. Managers can write notes down if they need to; however, it is important they are focusing on it being a conversation.

Schedule More Than Once Per Year

For most companies, stay interviews can be conducted once or twice a year. Although, we think these types of questions should be asked even more frequently. Another way to gather the same information is to recommend that your managers ask some of these questions during their normal conversations with their employees on a regular basis.

Opening the Interview

To open the stay interview your manager can say something like,

“I would like to talk to you about some reasons you continue working with our company, so I can understand how we could make this a better place to work.”

Assure the employees that the conversation they are having is confidential and informal to understand how to make the company better and ensure the employee is satisfied in their role.

If you want employees to be transparent and honest, they need to understand and trust that the things they share will not be used against them in any way. Check out this article to help managers build trusting relationships.

Asking Questions

We’ve given examples of questions that can be asked above. It’s a good idea to give the questions to the employee prior to the meeting, so the interviewee has time to think about and prepare their answers.

When deciding which questions to ask, start with easier ones at the beginning and gradually get a little more thought provoking as the interview goes on. This will relax the interviewees’ nerves a little bit.

Encourage the employee to take time to think. If there is silence in between the manager asking the question and the employee answering, don’t try to fill the silence – this could lead them towards certain answers. Encourage the silence and give employees time to thoughtfully answer.

Closing the Interview

To close the interview, the manager will want to summarize key reasons why the employee does stay or may want to leave. Take this information to develop a stay plan and be sure to end the conversation on a positive note. A stay plan is a short list of actionable items that both the manager and the employee will work on together to address the ideas discussed during the interview.

Implement Positive Change

Now that the manager has gathered all the information on what the organization is doing right and what you can improve on, your next step as an L&D professional is determining what to do with the information. How can you utilize training and development to help your managers reduce turnover and retain top talent?  

We’ve compiled 29 employee retention resources to help you reduce the number of employees walking out and drive better business performance – get started by checking out these helpful ebooks, guides, reports, articles, infographics, and webinars! 

One of our most popular resources on employee retention is our webinar, Employees Don’t Want a Lot: Retain Talent & Drive Results With the Right Employee Experience.

Training & Development Industry Researcher | Caroline researches and writes about the impacts of employee learning on organizations and individuals. She looks at L&D and HR issues and industry trends and helps them understand how to create better training programs that grow their employees and their business.