Employee Engagement Series: Stay Interviews

Stay interviews

By: Susan Walsh, SHRM-SCP

Employee engagement is the extent to which an employee is actively committed to the success of the organization and exhibits certain behaviors that express engagement such as solution-orientation, team-focus, clear communication, empathetic, resilient, manages conflict in a healthy manner and is accountable for his/her actions. This is the ideal employment state at all levels in the organization! However, a recent Gallup study shows that employee engagement is down for the first time in a decade. Some industries, such as healthcare and social work were hit the hardest. Within organizations, the manager level also saw a significant decline in engagement in 2021. This topic is so important in light of today’s tight labor market, coupled with the Great Resignation, it deserves special attention. I’ll spend the next three blogs discussing specific strategies for increasing employee engagement and intentionally working to keep your best employees.


A stay interview is a scheduled interview with current employees to better understand why they remain with the organization. The goal of the stay interview is to learn what makes your organization a good place to work and what can be done to improve retention. Stay interviews can be conducted on the heels of an employee opinion or employee satisfaction survey to gather more information or they can be conducted on their own to get insights from specific employees.


Organizations can benefit from conducting stay interviews, analyzing the results and implementing changes. Some of the benefits include:

1. Establishing or affirming trust between the employee, manager and organization. This culture of trust can increase job satisfaction, work performance and reduce turnover.

2. Proactively identifying issues that might otherwise lead to turnover. This ultimately reduces costs associated with hiring and onboarding new employees.

3. Building on organizational strengths and making sure this gets communicated in the employment branding.


The following guidelines help direct the stay interview:

● Schedule this time in advance with the employee. Setting aside time for the conversation sends a message that the meeting is important.

● Set expectations with the employee so he/she can be prepared with responses. No surprises.

● Conduct the meeting in a location that is comfortable for the employee. If done onsite, this might be in their office, conference room or other small meeting room, or in a casual open setting.

● Ask questions that will benefit the employee and the organization. Keep questions direct and to the point and be sure to avoid questions that result in yes or no responses. Good examples of questions include:

○ What makes you happiest in your job?

○ If you could change one thing about your job / the company, what would that be?

○ What do you like most / least about working for the company?

● Express your appreciation for the employee’s time and honest insights. Be sure to follow up after the meeting to express gratitude.

● Use the information from stay interviews to recommend changes designed to increase employee engagement and retention.

Who Conducts the Stay Interview

If the manager/employee relationship is already positive, the manager is in the best position to conduct the stay interview as the employee probably feels safe enough to have an open, honest conversation. In this case, managers will need the tools to effectively conduct the interview and gather the information. They will need to be trained to use a consistent process for data collection. If the manager /employee relationship is poor, not well established or managers are experiencing disengagement, then an HR professional or outside consultant is a good option to conduct the interview.

Currently, organizations are less likely to conduct stay interviews and more likely to conduct exit interviews. Exit interviews gather useful information about why an employee is leaving, but it’s typically too late to change an employee’s decision to go. In contrast, a stay interview gathers critical insights from employees who (as far as you know) are not planning on leaving, and have real reasons to continue with the company. Involving employees in this conversation and process reaps rewards that lead to lower turnover and reduced hiring expenses. Consider adding stay interviews to your HR engagement plans. More stay interviews should lead to fewer exit interviews!

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