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How to Conduct Stay Interviews to Retain Employees?

In the aftermath of the Great Resignation, where many employees left or were planning to leave for a new job, HR managers and organizational leaders are asking why. Employee turnover is costly, which makes retention-boosting activities even more critical. 

Stay interviews are the easiest and quickest to implement from the different retention strategies, such as employee feedback, engagement activities, and loyalty programs. 

Managers are investing more time in understanding why employees choose to stay, what keeps people attached to their workplace, and using this information to adopt more proactive practices. 

A report from Non-Profit HR found the use of stay interviews to be up from 33% in 2022 to 46% in 2023, a testament to their effectiveness in reducing employee turnover. 

A stay interview provides valuable information about team engagement, employee satisfaction, and retention and allows managers to reengage with valuable employees to prevent talent from leaving your organization. 

If you’re looking to implement effective stay interviews, keep reading. 

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What is a Stay Interview?  

Stay interviews, also called stay conversations, are meetings between managers and employees about why they like working at your company and what they would change about the business, team, or current role. 

These conversations can be used to assess the employee’s flight risk to anticipate the hiring needs. 

Organizations conduct stay interviews to uncover and address what’s not going well and the challenges that exist or lie ahead. This information is used to fix the root cause of employee dissatisfaction before the employee starts searching for a new job. 

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Relevance of the Stay Interview Today 

There are several reasons why people leave their jobs; some were recontextualized during the pandemic, and others arise from specific working conditions in the present. The primary factors fueling turnover in today’s time are: 

  • The lack of career growth and disappointment with one’s role
  • The pandemic made people reflect and reassess their goals and what made work meaningful for them 
  • The desire for more flexibility in terms of remote/hybrid work
  • Post-pandemic issues like the growing cost of childcare and lost loyalty towards the establishment in the aftermath of widespread layoffs 

These are some of the issues you learn from team members when you conduct stay interviews to improve employee experience and the work culture.  

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The Purpose and Value of a Stay Interview 

Stay interviews aim to ask questions that address what you’d learn from exit interviews. You can fold them into your existing one-on-ones or conduct them monthly if you don’t have regular check-in meetings (although, why not?). 

Addresses employee retention

The foremost goal of stay interviews is to learn what motivates your existing employees to stay with the company and identify what could inspire them to depart. Possible answers for the latter could include a lack of recognition, burnout, or limited career advancement and growth opportunities. 

Address these concerns early to improve satisfaction and prevent the top employees from leaving. As per a scientific study, a positive work environment improves employee commitment level, performance, and drive for achievement. 

Influences job satisfaction and motivation

Stay interviews go beyond simply collecting information. Employees are shown that their critiques, concerns, and feedback are valued and addressed. When they feel they are being heard, they are happier with their jobs and more motivated to perform. 

Additionally, stay interviews allow managers to identify top under-challenged or under-appreciated performers. This opens the door to discussions about career development opportunities and helps retain top-performing employees.

For example, while you have an employee rewards program, the HR team does not have the right tools to measure and appreciate the employees’ performance, leading to employee discontentment in the team. Stay interviews can help you find this issue and the smoke signals. 

Prevents turnover in employment

Because of its active nature, a stay interview program can help reduce employee turnover. It helps identify probable issues that can be dealt with before they become full-blown problems. 

The key to an impactful stay interview is to ask specific questions to help you get the most out of the interview.

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Key Questions to Ask in a Stay Interview  

Ideally, ask interview questions that get your employees talking and get their honest feedback. 

Career development questions  

  1. What are you learning here?
  2. What new skills do you want to develop?
  3. What do you like about the training programs offered by the company?
  4. What could be improved about the development opportunities?
  5. Describe your ideal job.
  6. What did you enjoy most about your previous role that you don’t get to do here anymore?
  7. What aspects of your last job did you love that are missing now?
  8. What are your short-term and long-term career goals? How can we help you achieve them?
  9. Are there additional responsibilities you’d like to take on within your role?
  10. Are there any benefits you’d find valuable in your current role that we don’t offer?

Leadership and management questions

  1. How can I make your work experience more enjoyable?
  2. What changes would make your job more satisfying for you?
  3. How can we better support you in your role?
  4. What kind of recognition motivates you the most?

Workplace culture questions

  1. What keeps you motivated to work here?
  2. How do you feel about the way we recognize employee achievements?
  3. Do you feel you have a good work-life balance? If not, how can we improve it?
  4. Describe the company culture. What do you like and dislike about it?

Overall satisfaction questions

  1. What excites you most about coming to work each day?
  2. Have you ever considered leaving the company? If so, why?
  3. What are you looking forward to at work daily?
  4. What aspects of your daily work do you find frustrating?
  5. Can you describe a recent work day that caused you stress or anxiety?
  6. Tell me about a recent positive work experience.
  7. What thoughts occupy your mind during your commute to work?
  8. What goes through your mind on your way home from work?
  9. Are your skills and experience being fully utilized?
  10. What specific tasks do you enjoy? What would you like to do differently in your role?
  11. How would you describe your relationship with your direct supervisor?
  12. Do you feel you have a healthy work-life balance? Explain your answer.
  13. Do you feel appreciated for your contributions at work? Why or why not?
  14. What makes you feel most productive and successful at work?
  15. Have any recent situations made you think about leaving the company?

These answers can help you make individual employees happy by, for example,  assigning projects in their areas of interest. Some will also enable you to improve the current employees’ experience, for instance, by securing additional headcount for a better work-life balance for everyone. 

Regular follow-up questions can help you gauge morale, establish trust, and identify areas of improvement, engagement, and retention. 

💡Pro tip: Use ClickUp Brain, a built-in AI assistant, as your brainstorming partner to generate these questions. After the meeting, ClickUp Brain also summarizes the key points, saving you the grunt work of writing lengthy meeting notes. If you wish, you can also turn these into tasks in ClickUp that you can assign to relevant stakeholders.

Use ClickUp Brain and its prompts to generate your Stay interview questions

Use ClickUp’s free HR templates to create a set of mid and high-level instructions documenting specific tasks, questions, and processes to follow during and after the stay interview. 

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How to Prepare and Conduct Stay Interviews  

Sure, the HR department can conduct these conversations. However, they’re more effective when led by the employee’s manager or skip-level manager whom the employee trusts since the employee may then be more forthcoming with their feedback. 

Scheduling it ahead of time

  • Pick the right time: Don’t schedule stay interviews right after a person starts a new role or during a performance review. Pick a time when the employee is settled and can provide considerate feedback
  • Give them time to prepare: Inform employees about the stay interview at least a week in advance. This allows them time to gather their thoughts and put together any questions they could have
  • Offer flexibility: Be flexible with scheduling. Consider providing alternatives for early morning, late afternoon, or even virtual meetings to accommodate employee schedules

Sharing the purpose and expectations of the meeting

  • Set clear expectations: Explain the reason for the stay interview. Let employees recognize that it is an opportunity to talk about their work, what motivates them, and any area for development
  • Focus on open conversation: Emphasize that the communication is exclusive and that their sincere comments are valued
  • Prepare an outline: Make a simple outline of the topics you must cover. This could include their experience with their role, opinion of workspace flexibility, professional improvement possibilities, and work-life balance
  • Encourage questions: Let them know this is a two-way conversation and encourage them to ask questions about their career path or concerns

Understanding the importance of genuine employee feedback

  • Active listening is fundamental: Make sure you do not dictate the conversation. To understand the ‘why’ behind their answers, be quiet and listen once you’ve asked the question. Your employees should be doing the majority of the talking
  • Show appreciation: Thank them for their time and honest comments. Let them understand that their voices matter and that their input will be used in  decision-making and to improve the working environment
  • Take notes: Note the key points during the interview, including their motivators, objections, and concerns. If you have the employee’s consent, record the conversation to revisit the responses if needed 
  • Follow-up questions: After the interview, follow up with them. Briefly summarize the key factors discussed and any subsequent steps you plan to take based on their feedback

💡Pro tip: Instead of using multiple tools to manage stay interviews, use ClickUp’s HR Management Platform as a central hub of employee information between managers and direct reports.

The employee management software allows you to track the response data from the interview questions for valuable insights and smarter decision-making.

Read More: AI tools for decision-making

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Best Practices and Tips for Effective Stay Interviews  

Remember that a good stay interview is a conversation, not an interrogation. Here are some tips on conducting a successful stay interview that will leave your employees feeling heard and valued. 

The importance of two-way communication

Stay interviews are not performance reviews. The goal is to have a conversation where the employee feels comfortable discussing their concerns.

HR professionals and managers must listen to employees, give them complete attention, and avoid interruptions. They should also encourage open and honest remarks by emphasizing that there are no wrong answers.

Here are some ways to encourage two-way communication:

  • Start with a reinforcement: Acknowledge the employee’s contributions and thank them for their hard work
  • Ask open-ended questions: Questions beyond ‘yes’ or ‘no’ replies encourage detailed responses
  • Use reflective listening: Pay attention to verbal and nonverbal cues and the speaker’s body language to discern unstated emotions. 
  • Be present: Put away distractions like phones and focus on the conversation at hand

💡Pro tip: ClickUp can be a valuable tool for facilitating two-way communication in stay interviews. Use ClickUp Docs to create a list of open-ended questions that address various aspects of the employee’s experience, from workload and career development to company culture and work-life balance.

ClickUp Docs
Document the Stay interview on ClickUp Docs and add individual responses that you can later refer to

This ensures a structured conversation while allowing for individual responses.

Also, consider using interview templates to structure your interviews and have a consistent framework for asking questions and logging their answers.

Select a comfortable location

The location of the stay interview can significantly impact its success. Choose a quiet, personal space free from interruptions. This might be an empty conference room, a dedicated interview area, or even a quiet cafe nook (with the employee’s permission).

The most important factor is employee engagement—that the employee feels comfortable and relaxed. Avoid undertaking stay interviews inside the workspace, as this might put them in ‘work’ mode and hinder open conversation.

Allow ample time and take as long as you need

Stay interviews must not be rushed. Schedule sufficient time on your calendar for the conversation without feeling forced to wrap up early. Ideally, aim for 45 minutes to an hour. This gives the employees enough time to share their thoughts and concerns freely.

Be flexible with the time allocated. If the conversation flows organically and the employee has more to add, do not cut them quickly. The aim is to accumulate valuable feedback, sometimes taking longer than anticipated.

💡Pro tip: Use ClickUp’s Calendar View to schedule stay interviews—the flexible calendar keeps everyone on the same page and ensures the interview does not conflict with other commitments.

Drag-and-Drop-tasks-Calendar-View
Reschedule your meetings in an instant via the drag-and-drop feature in ClickUp Calendar View

Prioritizing employee feedback and sincerity in the process

The cornerstone of successful stay interviews is prioritizing employee feedback and demonstrating genuine interest in their well-being. Employees can quickly gauge if the stay interview was just a formality.

Here are a few methods to show your sincerity:

  • Express gratitude for their time and comments
  • Pay attention to what they say and practice active listening
  • Take detailed notes during the interview
  • Follow up after the interview with a summary of key points mentioned and any action items planned

💡Pro tip: Use the ClickUp Interview Process Template to design, test, and optimize your stay interview process. It provides structure and consistency to standardize the process, allows you to compare feedback, and collects data in an organized format for further analysis. 

ClickUp’s Interview Process Template helps you design, test, and optimize your stay interviews

Recap: How to conduct an effective stay interview:

  • Schedule it in advance so they have time to prepare
  • Set expectations about the purpose
  • Select a comfortable and quiet location
  • Have an open conversation and encourage questions
  • Practice two-way communication
  • Pay attention to non-verbal cues
  • Take notes and ask follow-up questions
  • Show appreciation for their feedback
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Use Stay Interviews to Retain Your Best Employees 

Instead of focusing on what your employees can do for your organization, find out what they might expect of you. Implement stay interviews to foster your employees’ development, help them achieve their dreams, and enhance employee loyalty and retention. 

Don’t wait for them to consider leaving before you take action.

Ready to streamline your HR tasks and free up time for stay interviews? Sign up on ClickUp for free

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is another name for stay interviews?

Stay interviews are also called stay conversations. Some organizations may call them employee retention interviews or stakeholder conversations. Still, these terms all describe the same basic concept: active conversations to understand why employees are happy and what might cause them to consider leaving.

How do you ace a stay interview?

When conducting a stay interview as an HR professional, ask clear questions, listen actively without judgment, note down the important information, and take the conversation in the direction they want it to go based on the employee’s answers to your questions. 

Here’s how to ace the stay interview:

  • Preparation: Review the employee’s file and projects according to the questions.
  • Setting: Choose a private, comfortable location where interruptions are unlikely.
  • Questions: Focus on the pain points, job satisfaction, growth opportunities, and areas for improvement.
  • Listen: Listen carefully for verbal and non-verbal cues.
  • Action: Thank employees for their feedback and follow up on any specific concerns.

Is a stay interview the same as a performance review?

No, stay interviews and performance reviews serve different purposes. Stay interviews focus on employees’ feelings and what the company can do to improve their experience. Performance interviews examine an employee’s past performance and set future goals. 

Are stay interviews the same as exit interviews?

No, stay interviews are proactive, aiming to prevent departures, while exit interviews are reactive, conducted when the employees leave, trying to learn from them to improve for the future. Ideally, a company would use both a stay interview and an exit interview to get a well-rounded picture of employee sentiment.

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