Stay interviews are a crucial tool to keep employees happy and engaged, but only if you are asking the right stay interview questions. Stay interviews have a similar structure to exit interviews – except stay interviews help companies get ahead of turnover. When conducting an exit interview, it’s valuable to gain insight as to why someone is leaving – but by then, it’s too late to change things. By conducting a stay interview, you can uncover any pain points an employee may have before they decide to leave the company, resulting in less turnover and happier employees.

Stay Interview Questions You Should Be Asking at Your Company

Implementing Stay Interviews 

Stay interviews should be a separate time dedicated to one thing – interviewing an employee to uncover their current level of happiness within their job role. This helps managers get a feel for what they could change to make an employee more likely to stay, but also what the organization is doing correctly.

Stay interviews are different than scheduled one-on-one meetings between a manager and an employee. Although one-on-one meetings are an important tool for general retention, they are often focused on tasks in progress or updates, and not on how the employee is feeling in their job role at any given moment. Implementing a formal stay interview schedule sets aside time to give a concerted effort to understand an employee’s current satisfaction and pain points within their role.

If your company culture already supports a culture of open communication, one-on-one check-ins, and employee feedback, then stay interviews should be easy to implement. It’s more likely that in cultures that already support open communication and feedback, stay interviews will be more candid and provide useful insights.

However, if your organization lacks a culture of communication and trust, you may need to build that up first before considering implementing a stay interview process. Employees who are fearful of being honest and open will likely answer stay interview questions with dishonesty, which does not provide any useful insights for the employer.

Once you’ve grown a culture that supports open and honest feedback, you must decide the stay interview schedule. It’s recommended to do a stay interview either every quarter or every 6 months. This way, you can closely compare any changes in an employee’s stay interview answers, to get ahead of potential burnout or resignations.

Regardless of how often you are conducting stay interviews, it’s important to conduct a stay interview with every single employee, regardless of their perceived risk for resignation or burnout. Even if an employee often expresses happiness and excitement about their job, it’s always important to still interview them. The reason being is twofold.

For one, it can be helpful to listen to a content employee explain what makes them so happy about their role or the company. The second reason is if stay interviews are only conducted with a certain set of employees, it may cause distrust among employees, and they may feel singled out.

Once you start conducting stay interviews, it’s important to keep a few key principles of a successful stay interview in mind.

Components of a Successful Stay Interview and Good Stay Interview Questions to Ask

Once you have planned the frequency of your stay interviews, you must move on to understand what makes a stay interview successful. Essentially, there may be some cultural shifts that have to happen to ensure your stay interviews are successful.

First, commit to a positive attitude when conducting stay interviews. If an employee expresses unhappiness or concern with an area of their job role, it’s not the time to criticize them or point out where they went wrong. Instead, your focus as an employer should be listening to the employee’s feelings and letting them know you are committed to their happiness in their role.

Beyond just being a good listener, you must also make positive changes from the feedback you receive from your stay interviews. It’s silly to put so much effort into conducting stay interviews and gathering feedback, just to not do anything constructive with that information. Ask your employees what changes they would like to see and see how such changes could be implemented within the organization.

If no changes come from stay interviews, employees will likely become disengaged with stay interviews over time. If they feel that stay interviews are essentially pointless, they will be less likely to give honest and helpful feedback. It will just become another time-consuming task on their to-do list. This is exactly what you don’t want!

After gathering all the feedback, look for any common trends between employees. If a handful of employees are all saying they have too high of a workload, maybe it’s time to consider hiring more hands. Any comments that seem to repeat themselves from employee to employee should be looked at seriously and addressed right away. Managers should be ready to address the key stakeholders who can make such decisions.

For example, if short staffing and high workload seem to be a pain point in stay interviews, the managers should have a conversation with HR or recruiting to plan to reduce the current employee workload.

All feedback is good feedback and should be considered when analyzing the results of your stay interviews. The goal should be to make as many positive changes as possible from the data you gather from the stay interviews. When implementing the subsequent changes, it’s important to let all employees know that the new changes the company made were influenced by their participation in the stay interviews, to remind them that the stay interviews are impactful and can make a difference in their work life.

So, what questions should you ask to ensure you are getting the best feedback possible? Keep reading for some examples of stay interview questions.

Effective Stay Interview Questions

The feedback will only be as good as your questions are. That’s why it’s important to put time and effort into deciding which stay interview questions you will ask. Stay interview questions should be meaningful and crafted to invoke detailed and honest responses from employees.

Essentially, you can use the following categories to start thinking about which types of questions you will ask:

  • Questions about the employee (their mental health, work/life balance, or even just checking in on personal life is impactful for most).
  • Questions about the job role (these questions focus on their happiness, comfortability, and excitement about their current tasks and projects).
  • Questions about the company culture (this can range from company to company, but typically will be questions about employee events, benefits, professional relations, etc.)
  • Questions about the physical work environment (this can include questions about the physical office space, how accessible it is, the commute, or if remotely working, their at-home office set up).
  • Questions about the technology (some companies are using outdated technology and don’t even realize it; so, these questions should focus on getting your employee’s assessment of your technology, how it’s working, and if they know of any better solutions).

Example Stay Interview Questions

Using the above categories, you can begin to craft questions that follow each topic. Always keep the stay interview questions you have relevant to your company – for example, if your company is fully-remote, you may focus less on questions about the office space and more on company culture and at-home workspace accommodations.

Some great examples of effective stay interview questions are:

  • What do you look forward to most every day?

As you can imagine, answers here will vary greatly. However, that’s what makes it such an impactful question. This question gives great insight into the employee’s happiness in the job role, without having to outright ask if they are happy or unhappy in their current position.

  • What do you dread about work every day?

This is a tough question to ask, but like the above question, it provides invaluable insight when conducting a stay interview. The answer to this question will tell you what the employee would like to change if they could.

  • Do you feel fully utilized in your current role?

Simple and to the point – this stay interview question is impactful. If an employee feels as though they are under-utilized in their role, they may not bring it up without being asked. They may see opportunities to take on more responsibility but be afraid to ask for those tasks or fear being seen as overstepping their job titles. If an employee feels underutilized in their role, it’s a sign they could be open to additional tasks or need a more fulfilling title.

  • Have you been provided with enough development opportunities at this company?

Following a similar notion to the above question, this stay interview question can uncover if the employee feels they are hitting a glass ceiling with their progression within their role. It’s also a great opportunity for the organization to get a better understanding of what development and training opportunities they should include going forward.

Bottom Line

Stay interviews are impactful and useful tools to get ahead of potential turnover and keep employees engaged. The stay interview questions asked, and how you conduct your stay interviews, greatly influence how successful they will be, so be sure to plan carefully for these conversations and implement them with care.

Stay interviews benefit both the employee and employer – the employee feels more important and valued, and the employer uncovers crucial data needed to make continual improvements to the employee experience. It’s a win-win!