Conducting Stay Interviews To Enhance Engagement & Improve Retention

Employee engagement and retention are core issues within every organization today, no matter the size or industry. Entities that understand the benefits of improving these talent management priorities are proactively addressing them by executing diverse strategies and one of those is conducting ‘stay interviews’.

Stay interviews are meetings that managers have with employees they want to engage and retain. The Society for Human Resource Management says that stay interviews give managers the ability to learn and solve employee concerns while the employees are still on board. These meetings provide insight for how to engage and retain individual employees.

According to Bill Catlette of Contented Cows, an organization that provides leadership training, executive coaching and employee surveys, the primary objectives of conducting stay interviews are to: gather valuable feedback from employees about the state of your organization’s morale, identify strengths as well as areas for improvement, and develop a trust and confidence with employees.

Catlette points out 3 crucial elements when instituting stay interviews:

  1. Conduct them consistently.

  2. Provide a mentally comfortable environment where employees can be honest and open. Allow employees to discuss positives and negatives.

  3. Listen and respond with more than just words. It is critical to follow up on issues mentioned by employees. Managers need to provide timely feedback and follow through with their commitments when at all possible.

Catlette’s third point is the one that most organizations fail to execute – the ‘follow through’. Follow through is the most important component of any strategy and it’s no different with stay interviews. Employees do not want to have ‘stay interviews’ and then have their manager ignore their feedback which can end up making a worse impression. Therefore, an organization must have a plan for how it will address concerns brought up during these meetings.

Brad Aronson, a highly-successful entrepreneur, has his own suggestions for conducting successful stay interviews:

  1. Ask specific questions that will result in specific answers.

  2. Provide feedback when employees discuss their short- and long-term career goals. It is important to let them know what is realistic within your organization and why. As their direct report, you do not have to give them a concrete plans but just discuss the next steps that could be taken.

  3. Understand employees' lives outside of work and significant issues they may be dealing with.

Depending upon a company’s size and industry, and the employee’s length of tenure, questions for stay interviews can vary widely. Organizations need to tailor their questions accordingly, and like Aronson says, they need to be specific.

Some ideas for questions are:

  • How well is your role, this department and the organization meeting your expectations?

  • What do you like best/least about your role? About our organization?

  • What part of your role is most challenging? What is least challenging?

  • Do you feel that your talents are being fully utilized?

  • What could we change to make your job more exciting, challenging, and rewarding?

  • Do you feel recognized for your efforts? What kind of recognition is meaningful for you?

  • What things would you like to change about your team or department?

  • How are we (and the organization) helping you learn and further develop your skills? Are there new skills you would like to develop?

  • What is your ideal job and what can we do to support your progress toward it?

  • What specific reasons would cause you to leave? Has anything prompted you leave? Has it been resolved?

As you can see from the above, stay interviews can very easily be done and they can offer constructive feedback that you are not going to discover any other way. Just remember, that if you choose to initiate them as part of your strategies, conduct them on a regular basis and make sure you follow up with valid issues brought to your attention. By doing so, you are sure to enhance employee engagement and improve retention within your team and organization.

Sources: Brad Aronson, ContentedCows,, Society For Human Resource Management.