What is a stay interview?

A stay interview is a formal discussion between a leader and an employee to determine how to enhance the employee’s engagement. Stay interviews are one-on-one to encourage people to share information they may feel uncomfortable bringing up in a group setting. 

Organizations often run stay interviews in a cascade style, having each employee interview a subsequent subordinate. For example, an executive employee interviews a manager, the manager interviews a supervisor, and the supervisor interviews a lower-level team member.

Why should HR leaders care about stay interviews?

Stay interviews enable leaders and HR departments to:

  • Gauge employee satisfaction
  • Address issues before they escalate
  • Adapt processes to satisfy people’s needs
  • Build trust with employees

These dialogues show people that the company values them and wants them to stay. Stay interviews help HR improve the employee experience, boost engagement and retention, and reduce turnover.

What can HR leaders do to incorporate stay interviews into their standard processes?

To conduct interviews that contribute to higher retention and engagement levels, HR leaders can take a strategic approach:

  • Alert employees in advance. Let people know about the stay interview in advance. This allows them to prepare for the meeting, identify issues that bother them, and decide how they’d like to communicate these concerns with their managers. 
  • Prioritize who to interview first. Stay interviews can benefit every employee, even those happy at their jobs. However, targeting high-performing and high-potential employees, especially those considering leaving, is particularly worthwhile as it can reduce the turnover of valuable talent. 
  • Structure the meeting. Create a comprehensive list of interview questions concerning professional learning opportunities, career growth, core motivations, goals, and priorities. The list can include questions such as: What do you look forward to at work? Is there anything that could tempt you to leave your job, and if so, what is it? What learning opportunities or resources would be helpful to you in your job? What type of feedback could assist you in your work?
  • Schedule during slow seasons. Managers may see carving out time for the 20-minute stay interview as an extra burden. Scheduling the stay interview during a slower work period can make the meetings less stressful and more productive.
  • Follow up on the interview. Listen to people’s suggestions, document them, and let your people know that company will do everything it realistically can to incorporate their suggestions. Companies may not be able to address everyone’s suggestions all at once. But incorporating feedback when possible can elevate the employee experience and build trust.

Why should a stay interview be part of modern HR strategy?

Stay interviews are a straightforward way to increase retention: Find out what people want and–if possible–make adjustments to incorporate their needs. True, adjusting HR processes to improve the employee experience takes time and careful planning. However, implementing changes that can solve problems can help nurture the employee-employer connection and improve people’s workplace circumstances so they’ll be more likely to want to stay.