5 Ways Stay Interviews Help Keep Top Talent

Stay interviews give the chance to course-correct before valuable employees head for the door.

Written by Aaron Rubens
Published on May. 02, 2023
5 Ways Stay Interviews Help Keep Top Talent
Image: Shutterstock / Built In
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These days, employees are often in the driver’s seat, whether in their approach to work or their options to pursue different opportunities. Gallup recently reported that half or more of the U.S. workforce is quiet quitting, or doing just the bare minimum in their roles rather than fully engaging in their jobs. The Great Resignation showed the power that individuals have to walk away from workplaces that don’t meet their needs because of low pay, disrespect or lack of advancement opportunities. 

6 Tips for Successful Stay Interviews

  1. Schedule stay interviews at least a week in advance.
  2. Share appropriate context of what the interview will be about.
  3. Be an active listener.
  4. Ask follow-up questions.
  5. Stay open to difficult feedback.
  6. Be proactive in helping to resolve employee concerns.

With this in mind, employers must prioritize strategies that will help them hold onto top talent before it’s too late. When it comes to understanding why people are dissatisfied at work, many companies get the timing wrong, conducting exit interviews with employees who have already decided to leave. By then, it’s too late for the information shared in the exit interview to make a difference in the departing employee’s retention.

A smarter solution to save talent on the front end is to leverage stay interviews, which managers conduct with existing employees, instead of dealing with exit interviews. Here are five ways that stay interviews can help companies keep top talent for the long term.

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Employees Can Air Grievances

While exit interviews are often too little, too late in terms of retention or intervention, stay interviews can be the stitch in time that saves nine. Because employers conduct stay interviews with current employees rather than workers who have already given notice, the company can find out how these team members feel about their jobs. 

Stay interviews offer employees a chance to air dissatisfaction while there’s still time for managers to address and correct issues. This is a much more effective retention solution than finding out about a problem when the employee already has two feet out the door.


Managers Can Offer Support

Companies often lose key players because a manager is in the dark about the challenges an employee experiences. If employers don’t provide their staff with opportunities to discuss job-related concerns with their managers, some employees will likely remain silent and withhold their issues until they’ve already reached the breaking point.

Stay interviews circumvent this negative outcome by providing employees with a 1-on-1 with their manager to express how they’re feeling in their position and identify areas where they could use support. Since stay interviews are often more conversational and less formal than exit interviews, stay interviews give the employer and employee a comfortable way to get on the same page about what’s going well and what needs improvement in a job and company based on the employee’s experience.


Employees Will Feel Heard

Employers who listen closely to their employees, validate them and take action based on their feedback are 11 times more likely to have high retention levels, according to Preceptyx research. Put another way, employees who don’t feel heard by their managers are more likely to jump ship. Employers can leverage stay interviews to put these stats into practice, listening attentively to employees, asking follow-up questions and applying what they learn rather than becoming defensive. 

Remaining neutral and open to hearing even difficult feedback during a stay interview can help your team members feel heard and understood. If you’re proactive in helping employees resolve their concerns and circle back with them to let them know what actions you’ve taken on their behalf, you’ll ensure that people want to stay at the company.


Employees Can Share Their Dreams

If employees don’t have a clear sense of their next steps and future potential in an organization, they may quit. A Workplace Intelligence survey found that around two-thirds of all employees and three-fourths of Millennial and Gen Z employees are thinking about leaving in the next year due to a lack of skills development support or too few career advancement opportunities. 

This is another area where a stay interview can save the day. It creates a perfect forum for workers to voice their thoughts on what they’d like their future with the organization to look like and what types of development they’d like to receive. Don’t assume that high-performing employees are satisfied with their current position and take them for granted. Use a stay interview to work closely with these indispensable team members to discover their priorities and how they envision their future with the company.


Stay Interviews Can Boost Morale

By conducting stay interviews that allow employees to share their concerns, engaging in active listening and discussing career planning, you can effectively enhance morale and align with your workforce. These meaningful conversations, which take place before emerging challenges have a chance to expand into full-blown problems, can be the key that helps your company keep talent, rather than hearing about why you’ve lost it after it’s too late.


Sample Stay Interview Questions

What should you ask employees during a stay interview? These six questions will get the ball rolling.

What do you like most about your job? This question starts the stay interview off on the right foot because it gets employees thinking about something positive. Note what’s shared in response so that you can try to build on what’s already working.

What do you like least about your job? While it can be challenging to hear your employees talk about their pain points, listen closely. Ask follow-up questions to determine what support you can offer to help resolve these issues.

Do you feel good about your work-life balance? Many employees prioritize work-life balance, as it’s been shown to increase happiness as well as productivity. Tune in to be sure your employees feel they can have a life outside of their job duties, or else other employers may provide that balance instead.

How valued do you feel? What would help you feel more valued? Appreciation of your employees is important. If an employee doesn’t feel valued, brainstorm strategies during the stay interview that might help, from specific perks to greater flexibility.

Do you feel heard at work? What would help you feel more heard? Employees need to feel heard at work, as well as valued. Brainstorm options to help team members who don’t feel heard have a chance to voice their opinions, and as a manager, commit to ensuring that every member of a meeting has an opportunity to participate.

Do you feel that you have a good relationship with your boss? This could be awkward to ask if you’re the boss, but encourage honest discussion about this topic. Use the stay interview as a chance to show your employees that you’re open to making changes to improve your working relationship, keeping in mind Gallup’s finding that close to half of people surveyed left their last job due to a conflict with a manager.

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What Employees Should Know About Stay Interviews

If you’re an employee and your manager or HR team asks you to participate in a stay interview, keep these points in mind to help you prepare: 

  • Timing. Ask your manager to schedule the interview with enough time in advance to prepare your thoughts. If you’re asked to do a stay interview that same day, request that it be pushed back a few days to allow you to think through your responses.
  • Interview prep. Review the sample questions above and do some planning to consider your answers. Write out answers to help you sort through your feelings about each topic.
  • Be honest. While sharing thoughts about a job may make you feel vulnerable, particularly if some aspects are negative, remember that a stay interview is designed to help nip problems in the bud. Being open about your challenges and areas in need of improvement now may help your company come up with solutions before it’s too late.

By encouraging companies and managers to take a proactive approach to problem-solving, stay interviews offer an effective way to improve employee retention. Unlike exit interviews, which poll exiting employees on what went wrong after it’s too late to make a difference, stay interviews allow organizations to course-correct at the right time with their current workers.  

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