How to Use a Stay Interview to Keep Good Employees

stay interview

“Won’t you stay just a little bit longer?”

Employee retention may not be what the 50s crooner Frankie Valli had in mind when he sang that iconic line from the song “Stay,” but it is a topic of concern for every employer who fears losing top-tier talent.

That is particularly the case for small businesses where the loss of a single employee may represent an entire job function or department. Add to that the strain involved in recruiting, hiring, and training a replacement — it’s a headache no employer wants.

Enter the Stay Interview

To prevent attrition among good employees, employers are now implementing a practice known as the stay interview, a one-on-one interview conducted by an employer or manager with a high-value employee who may be at risk of leaving.

The goal is to identify and reinforce positive factors that encourage an employee to stay and detect and minimize any triggers that may cause the employee to resign. Employers can also conduct stay interviews periodically throughout the year when there are no overt signs an employee has intentions to leave.

For companies, a stay interview is an opportunity to increase employee satisfaction and address any concerns they may have. A stay interview also gives employees a chance to share their concerns and goals, state what they like or don’t like about their current role with the company and suggest ideas for improvement.

The Stay Interview is Not a New Concept

In an exclusive interview with Small Business Trends, Robin Schooling, a human resources executive and strategist, based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said that, although a stay interview is not a new concept, it hasn’t been adopted on an organization-wide scale until recently.

“Good managers have always conducted stay interviews even though they didn’t call them that,” Schooling said. “They would have regular conversations with employees and ask the sorts of questions you would expect from a stay interview.”

According to Schooling, organizations need to shift away from stay interviews as informal individual exercises to becoming a practice they undertake routinely and embed within their culture.

“It’s important enough to expect managers to conduct stay interviews with employees on a consistent basis,” Schooling said.

How to Conduct a Stay Interview

A stay interview isn’t required to be as formal or structured as annual employee reviews but can be as casual as a conversation over a cup of coffee.

Despite the lack of structure, stay interviews typically consist of four parts:


Begin by praising the employee’s impact on the department or organization, then shift to an explanation that you, as the employer or manager, want to understand the factors that cause the employee to stay with the organization.

Say something like, “Thank you for taking the time to have this discussion. As one of our key employees, I want to pose some simple questions that can help me understand the factors that cause you to enjoy and stay in your current role.”

Ask Stay Questions

Ask a series of questions related to what the employee likes about his or her job and what motivates the employee to stay with the company. Also, ask for suggestions about ways the employee thinks the company can improve.

Ask Questions Regarding Frustrations or Concerns

Ask about any recent frustrations with the job the employee may have experienced or any related concerns. Further, ask what the employee thinks could be done to address those concerns.


End the meeting by thanking the employee for his or her honesty and with a plan to enhance the positives and address any concerns.

Questions to Ask During a Stay Interview

To gain the most benefit from a stay interview, Schooling recommends that employers include the following questions:

“What keeps you here?”

Even though that question sounds simplistic, according to Schooling it gets straight to the point regarding the employee’s motivations for staying with the company. It also provides insight into the factors related to the company culture that may be attractive, both for keeping good employees and drawing in new hires.

“What do you like most about your job and work in our organization?”

The question prompts the employee to outline the positive aspects of his or her job, which lead to staying with the company. It also sets a positive tone for the remainder of the interview.

“What interests, skills or talents do you have that you would like to utilize that you’re not?”

Employers want to ensure that employees are sufficiently challenged and have the opportunity to grow professionally, which is what this question addresses.

“What is it about working here that you wouldn’t miss if you went elsewhere?”

While you don’t want the stay interview to go down the path of being negative, you do want to draw out any concerns the employee may have about the company or his or her job, Schooling said.

“What motivates you to do your best work, and how can I support you in that?”

This question gets the employee to reflect on and reveal what drives him or her to do good work. It also provides positive reinforcement and shows the employer or manager has an interest in helping the employee achieve that standard.

“What suggestions do you have about how we can improve as an organization?”

“Asking the employee for suggestions gives her a sense of ownership in the company and reassurance that her opinions matter, which can strengthen the bond between the employee and her employer,” Schooling said. “It’s also a good way to end the interview on a positive note.”

Trust, a Factor in Stay Interview Success

Getting employees to open up during stay interviews and provide candid responses to questions comes down to a matter of trust, Schooling said.

“Employers and managers who fail to build trust will struggle when conducting stay interviews,” she said. “Employees will also be reluctant to speak their mind. But employers can build trust by asking, listening, probing, taking notes and developing and following through on stay plans that meet the needs of each employee.”

Schooling went on to suggest that stay interviews can, by themselves, be a good way to build trust and open the lines of communication between managers and employees.

“A stay interview shows employees that you care about their well-being and can go a long way in developing a positive employee-manager relationship,” Schooling said.

Interview Image via Shutterstock 5 Comments ▼

Paul Chaney Paul Chaney is a Staff Writer for Small Business Trends. He covers industry news, including interviews with executives and industry leaders about the products, services and trends affecting small businesses, drawing on his 20 years of marketing knowledge. Formerly, he was editor of Web Marketing Today and a contributing editor for Practical Ecommerce.

5 Reactions
  1. It is important to always ask your employees about their needs. Having a stay interview is a good idea for that. Taking care of your good employees is good for you in the long run.

  2. I think that having a stay interview is good practice. It shows that you care about your employees’ welfare and is not just hiring them just for the money.

  3. Employees need to be taken cared of and asked about their needs if you want them to stay – you need to do this especially for the skilled ones.

  4. Paul, thanks for bringing up this important practice. It’s also important to follow up on what your learn in a stay interview. Employees will figure out very quickly if the interview is a formality and nothing changes as a result.