Creating Effective Stay Interviews to Improve Employee Engagement and Retention

Stay Interview Portland

Employee engagement and retention are both costly and common among organizations. Fortunately, there is one affordable and effective strategy companies can implement proven to dramatically increase both employee retention and engagement: stay interviews. Stay interviews are structured conversations between managers and their direct reports to understand what motivates employees to stay with the company. They are a powerful retention tool when done right. Here are some tips for creating and managing effective stay interviews:

Plan ahead

Schedule stay interviews on a regular basis, such as biannually or annually. They should not replace your regular one-on-one meetings with employees but be treated as additional touchpoints. Prepare a list of open-ended questions to ask every employee to understand their motivations and challenges.

Set the tone

The interviews should focus on building trust and deepening your understanding of what matters to employees. Make it a two-way conversation, not an interrogation. Assure the employee that it’s a judgment-free zone and you want their candid perspectives.

Ask engaging questions

Go beyond surface level questions like “what do you like about your job?” Ask thoughtful questions like “If you were to leave, what would be the primary reason?” and “What could we do to improve your employee experience?” Listen deeply to understand, not just reply.

Discuss development

Ask employees about their career aspirations and how they want to grow. Develop plans to provide learning opportunities, cross-training, mentorship or stretch assignments to help them reach their potential. Support their long-term goals.

Address pain points

If employees bring up frustrations, probe to understand the root issues. Is it lack of resources? Overwork? Conflicts? Lack of clarity? Discuss solutions, then follow up after the interviews. Fixing pain points greatly increases retention.

Review compensation

Understand the employee’s perception of their compensation and get clarity around their satisfaction with pay. You may discover unmet expectations that could lead them to look elsewhere. While not all issues can be addressed, the transparency is appreciated.

Track feedback

Document the conversation highlights and follow up items. Track themes across stay interviews to identify opportunities to improve retention company-wide. Share insights with leadership and implement changes.

Set future meetings

The stay interview is not meant to be a one-off conversation but an ongoing touchpoint. Set a tentative date for your next stay interview with each employee. Follow up regularly before then on action items.

Say thanks

Express your appreciation to the employee for their candid feedback and your commitment to strengthening their experience. The act of listening itself helps build engagement and trust.

Stay interviews allow managers to be proactive instead of reactive in retention. By frequently checking in with employees and addressing issues promptly, you can improve job satisfaction and reduce voluntary turnover. Done right, stay interviews are an investment that pays off through higher performance, productivity and tenure. Make them a priority for all your key talent.