5 Stay Interview Question to Ask Your Employees

Man and a woman conducting a stay interview

A stay interview is a meeting held between you and your top employees to ascertain where they are currently at in terms of workplace and job role satisfaction. Through an open and honest discussion, the goal of the stay interview is to help strengthen your employees' retention and engagement levels.

Also known as a retention interview, it is not – and should not – be likened to a performance review or an appraisal. This is because the goal of the stay interview is to identify specific areas that can be improved upon to enhance employee satisfaction, rather than assess performance.

This is not an opportunity to reflect upon how the individual can perform better, either. With talent scarcity one of the leading challenges for today's recruiters, leaders need to find better ways to retain their best-performing individuals and find out what can be done to keep them from looking elsewhere. 

How Should You Structure a Stay Interview? 

Stay interview questions should always be open-ended, so that they encourage your employees to think about and elaborate upon their responses.

Therefore, rather than asking "do you like working here?" – which typically results in a straight "yes" or "no" answer – offer something such as "what is it about your job that gets you out of bed in the morning?"

This type of open-ended question will result in a broader range of answers, and your employees are much more likely to share the unexpected. 

Examples of Stay Interview Questions

If you are unsure of what exactly you should be asking, you can use the questions below as a template to get you started: 

What sort of feedback would you like to receive about your performance that you aren't currently receiving?

Asking this question gives the individual the chance to vocalise what concerns they have from a recognition standpoint. While some people don't need praise or validation to know that they're doing well, others might thrive on it. 

As your company grows and you employ people from different backgrounds and generations, it's essential to recognise what each person is looking for when it comes to this crucial area, and to understand the kinds of rewards that would go down well.

What opportunities for self-improvement would you like to have that go beyond your current job role? 

If you're able to offer employee training and development opportunities, then this is a fantastic question to ask. It will give your team the chance to express their desires for further education and learning related to their job role. 

Even if you don't have the budget to invest in training and development, there are plenty of free or low-cost training opportunities available, especially online. You don't need a large budget to show your employees that their growth and progression is important to you. 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Rather than asking outright what a team member likes about their role, try to break this question down into several sub-queries.

The following are some simple questions that enable you to identify what your team has worked on that has brought them joy and pride. This is valuable information to have, especially when it comes to allocating future projects and responsibilities:

  • What do you enjoy most about your job?
  • Do you feel like you are performing meaningful work? 
  • Do you feel like your work makes a difference for your clients?
  • What have you felt good about accomplishing in your time here?   

If there was one thing you could change about your job, team or company, what would it be?

This question shines a light on what concerns your staff might have about working for you in the long run, while unveiling problems that you probably weren't even aware of.

If necessary, follow it up with supplementary questions, such as:

  • What have you felt good about accomplishing in your job and in your time here?
  • If you were the manager here, what would you do differently? 
  • What keeps you here? 

What kind of role would you consider leaving us for?

Questions of this nature get to the core of any retention issues while shining a light on solutions to problems that you might not have noticed. The options are endless, and when you engage in a discussion on this level, you'll discover an individual's real strengths and qualities. 

You'll also be able to ascertain what interests your employees have, what kind of concerns they possess, and what their future career goals and aspirations look like. This will give you the opportunity to identify new and exciting ways to challenge your top-performing employees and push themselves to their fullest capabilities.

You can also ask:

  • When was the last time you considered leaving our team? What prompted it?
  • What does the ultimate dream job look like for you? 
  • What talents, interests or skills do you have that we haven't capitalised on?

Stay Interview Best Practices

In general, the stay interview process should be a transparent, two-way conversation showing your employees that you: 

  • Acknowledge their loyalty and appreciate them
  • Care about more than just their performance 
  • Are willing to make changes to increase their satisfaction

It should also show you: 

  • Any warning signs indicating negative feelings you weren't aware of from a top performer 
  • Which direction a top performer is hoping to head in 
  • Ways to retain that individual for longer 
  • Changes you could make (whether high or low-cost) that may reinforce their commitment, loyalty and engagement

Replacing your most valued employees is not only costly and time-consuming but can have a hugely detrimental impact on wider employee morale. Do what it takes to avoid the dreaded exit interview by implementing a stay interview strategy that helps you to retain your best people. 

Also, be sure to follow up on the stay interview by addressing all issues and concerns that were raised. If you want to hold on to your talent, you need to demonstrate that you value and respect them enough to act on their feedback in an honest and proactive way.  

Stay interviews are a simple yet effective tool for keeping your best employees. By periodically working with your key employees, this will increase their reasons to stay while minimising any frustrations that may trigger them to leave.

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