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How a Stay Interview Can Boost Employee Retention

Human Resources

More employers are conducting stay interviews in an effort to better understand the motivations, ambitions and general mindset of their valued employees. A stay interview is an occasion for a one-on-one conversation between a manager and employee designed to highlight any "risk factors" about the job that might lead him or her to contemplate leaving the company. This conversation can encompass current working conditions as well as candid employee feedback about the company's culture and other conditions that either help or hinder job performance.

The key benefit of conducting a stay interview is learning why an employee may be thinking of leaving before that decision is made. As recruiting expert Edward Fleischman says, "You never want to wait until someone resigns to get feedback on why they have decided to leave for another opportunity."

Other benefits of a stay interview can include:

Insights Into a Manager's Performance
A conversation with an employee can uncover areas where managers or supervisors may improve their own performance in order to better meet their employees' needs. It's commonly recognized that dissatisfaction with one's manager is a key reason employees leave a job.

Detecting Patterns
An ongoing series of stay interviews with different employees may turn up identifiable patterns worth exploring further. For example, if several employees complain independently about an inflexible or overly demanding work schedule, it may be time to consider a different approach to work hours. The same principle applies to any pattern of dissatisfaction revolving around compensation and benefits. The more you learn about what keeps valued employees happy, the more effective you can be at retaining them in the long run.

Fostering Engagement
Being regularly invited to offer feedback on their jobs can lead to greater employee engagement with your business. Stay interviews can serve as an early warning sign of problems you can address and resolve, thus improving an employee's attitude in the workplace.

Questions you may want to ask during a stay interview:

  • What motivates you to come to work every day?
  • What's the one part of your job you like the most?
  • Are there areas where you feel most discouraged in your job?
  • What might entice you to seek employment elsewhere?
  • Do you feel your work contributes to the success of our business?
  • Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the level of recognition you receive?
  • What specific changes would you like to see made in your job and/or the workplace in general?
  • Can you point to a situation in the past few weeks that was particularly frustrating? What happened to change that, if anything?

HR experts differ on the best times to conduct a stay interview. For a new employee, Fleischman recommends setting "at least three dates on the calendar ... for 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months from the date they were hired." HR thought leader John Sullivan suggests a once-a-year conversation with all of your valued employees, and doing them within weeks of each other. "That way, you can take what you've learned and promptly implement around that information."

For stay interviews to be truly effective, employees should have a sense of trust in their manager. It would also be important that these conversations lead to changes in the workplace, where appropriate. If a business owner fails to follow through with action, employees may feel disheartened with the company and begin searching for a new job elsewhere.

A stay interview can offer significantly more benefits to an employer than whatever might be gleaned from a departing employee's exit interview. You'll have the opportunity to better understand a valued employee's motivation, and to address any issues leading him or her to consider resigning before the employee leaves and potentially affects productivity and your company's bottom line.


This website contains articles posted for informational and educational value. Paychex is not responsible for information contained within any of these materials. Any opinions expressed within materials are not necessarily the opinion of, or supported by, Paychex. The information in these materials should not be considered legal or accounting advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant.