Stay Interviews Improve Retention, Employee Recognition Process

Traditionally in business, employee interviews are conducted during the hiring process or when someone leaves the company. However, there are also benefits to interviewing employees at various points in between.


And now, there’s never been a more important time to consider conducting “stay interviews.”


With roughly 4 million Americans a month resigning from their jobs, stay interviews are a great tool that managers should use to gauge employee satisfaction, company culture, and shared thinking on how to improve and grow the organization.


Managers who conduct stay interviews can retain top talent, engage their employees, and lower their employee attrition in ways that others cannot.


Contrary to popular belief, a stay interview isn’t a one-on-one conversation where you attempt to convince a departing employee to stay. Rather, a stay interview is an in-person meeting with a long-term, high-performing employee in which you attempt to uncover the parts of their role and your company that keep them coming back every day. It is also a way to figure out what might make a great employee move on.


The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recommends managers ask these five key questions during a stay conversation. When you follow up by asking strong probing questions, you will get all the information needed to develop individualized engagement and retention plans that really work. 


  • Question 1: What do you look forward to each day when you commute to work?

    First, we ask a question that brings employees into the here and now and asks them to focus on their daily duties and challenges rather than expand on broader issues like pay and benefits.


  • Question 2: What are you learning here, and what do you want to learn?

    Here, we are inviting employees to share their desires regarding development and careers.


  • Question 3: Why do you stay here?

    While appearing simple at first, the question of why employees want to stay with your organization opens major doors for discovery.


  • Question 4: When was the last time you thought about leaving us, and what prompted it?

    Everyone thinks about leaving sometimes, so a directly worded question brings a much-needed conversation into the light.


  • Question 5: What can I do to make your job better for you?

    While this question sends out a net for all remaining topics, it must ultimately yield answers about the interviewer.


Effective follow-up questions should include: Do I tell you when you do something well? Do I say and do things to help you do your job better, and what are three ways I can be a better manager for you?


There are two additional but important questions which address the concept of employee recognition.


The first is “What do you think of the way employees are recognized?”


When asked which factors were most important to them in a job, 37 percent of employees answered that they valued employee recognition above all else, according to recruiting website To keep people around, we need to recognize them in a way that resonates with everyone. Asking this question in stay interviews can help us understand how comprehensive and effective your employee recognition program is and identify different methods of acknowledgment.


The second question is “What kind of feedback about your performance or recognition would you like that you aren’t currently receiving?”


This prompt gives employees the chance to vocalize any concerns they may have from a recognition standpoint. Some people may need very little reassurance that they’re doing a good job. Others, meanwhile, may thrive on recognition of a job well done.


Asking this question pinpoints what each individual is looking for in terms of recognition and feedback and may point toward what your organization needs more of as a whole.


These recognition-based stay interview questions demonstrate to employees that you recognize and appreciate their loyalty, you care about more than just their performance, and that you’re open to making changes that would bring them more satisfaction.


And, in turn, these questions help you discover warning signs that indicate your key players need more support or direction, find ways to keep the employees in which you’ve invested the most time and resources, and implement low-cost changes that could reaffirm your employees’ commitment and engagement.


Replacing your leading employees can be time-consuming and costly. Stay interviews are a solid strategy to help you retain your business’s top performers.


But remember, having a stay interview doesn’t mean anything if you don’t act on the feedback you get from your employee.

Brian Galonek


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