Business Tools

Hanging On to Employees With the Stay Interview

By Joe Dysart

Facing one of the most intense competitions for employees in years, businesses are finding they can hang onto valuable employees longer by engaging in “Stay Interviews.”

Recruiting experts say these interviews ensure current employees feel valued—while uncovering beneath-the-radar problems that could lead to abrupt departures.

Plus, they can also spare businesses the often arduous process of onboarding a promising new hire—if they can find one.


Businesses are finding they can hang onto valuable employees longer by engaging in “Stay Interviews.”

Bonus: There are also a few software packages you can use to fine-tune, monitor, analyze and continually improve on your use of Stay Interviews.

Essentially, Stay Interviews say, “We care about what you have to say, we value you as a part of our organization, we are assessing workplace culture, workplace communication and we want to improve for you as an organization and leaders,” says Matthew W. Burr, owner, Burr Consulting.

Adds Richard Finnegan, an HR consultant who literally wrote the book on the topic, The Power of Stay Interviews for Engagement and Retention: “Senior managers know that unwanted turnover and disengaged employees drag down profits. Conducting Stay Interviews is an effective, fast solution that gives a mega-return on investment in the form of increased revenue and earnings.

“Our research shows that improvements in engagement and retention have direct impacts on revenue produced-per-employee and for the company as a whole,” he added.

Interestingly, Stay Interviews also dispel the common notion that money—and the pursuit of more of it—is the overwhelming reason why employees disappear from workforce rosters.

Says Beverly Kaye, co-author of Hello Stay Interviews, Goodbye Talent Loss: “Most employees who leave don’t start looking for other opportunities because of dissatisfaction with pay, perks or benefits.”

Instead, Kaye says employees are more likely to bolt if one of these key ‘reasons to stay’ are lacking:

  • Meaningful, challenging work.
  • A chance to learn and grow.
  • A good boss.
  • The sense of being a part of a team.

In a phrase: It’s much better for your business to develop the fine art of conducting Stay Interviews than becoming the master of The Exit Interview.

Here are key tips from recruiting experts on how to develop your own Stay Interview—and save yourself the hassle of going back into the marketplace to experiment with yet another stranger:

Key elements of the new software solution include:

  • Training and guiding managers on conducting Stay Interviews.
  • Managing the hierarchy—My Team—of who is to be interviewed by each leader in the organization along with the complete workflow.
  • Developing a customized Stay Interview for each employer.
  • Producing STAYview Action Plans for each employee—and follow-up interviews.
  • Producing analytics to show leaders those employees who are likely to separate from the company.
  • Scheduling with reminder prompts to ensure Stay Interviews get done on schedule.
  • Increasing visibility of retention and engagement issues.
  • Providing leaders the tools and confidence necessary to conduct Stay Interviews and act on their results.

Meanwhile, competitor HSD Metrics ( offers its own package for managing Stay Interviews—StayRight. The web-based system handles the entire process, including notifying employees, collecting data from interviews and reporting on results. And the 24/7 web portal displays numerical findings for all data gathered—as well as external benchmarks and commentary.

StayRight also offers charting comparisons, filtered data, robust analytics and reports, which together enable managers to maintain deep insight on the morale of their employees.

  • Add Employee Pulse Surveys for Additional Insight: Some HR departments also augment Stay Interviews with software that enables them to stay abreast of overall employee morale and engagement.
  • Use the same script/questions: Burr recommends standardizing the questions you use in your Stay Interview. This will enable managers to analyze information and insights on an employee-by-employee basis.

Plus, the collation and analysis of these standardized interviews—using either off-the-shelf Stay Interview software or a custom software solution—may enable you to develop business-wide policies based on concerns widely shared by your employees, he says.

  • Make Sure the Employee’s Manager—and Not HR—Is the Primary Interviewer: Given that an employee generally has a day-to-day relationship with a manager—rather than HR—it’s critical that the manager conduct the Stay Interview, according to Christopher Mulligan, CEO, TalentKeepers.
  • Be Ready to Be the Listener—and Hear Some Things You’d Rather Not Hear: “The employee should talk the majority of the Stay Interview, as the interviewer listens and takes notes on key points and concerns.

“In order to be effective, the management team must approach these interviews with an open mind and with humility.

“It will be common when the employee may not like something or want a change in their work environment. And it is easy for managers and especially owners to take the criticism personally.

“Leave your ego at home, and be ready to listen for ways you can improve your business and the loyalty of your employees.”

  • Experiment With the frequency of Your Stay Interviews: Recruiting experts interviewed for this piece were all over the map on how often to schedule Stay Interviews.

Mulligan suggests at least once a quarter with the first interview scheduled within 14 days of the hire.

Michael Murphy, CEO, Platinum Group, agrees: “Frequent—possibly quarterly—check-ins can keep things relevant, addressing what might be top-of-mind for employees.

“The exact frequency will depend on the current climate of the company:

  • Are there big shifts in direction that might affect people’s well-being?
  • Or, are there external forces at play that require pivots, where utilizing each employee’s skills to the maximum are essential?”

Kaye thinks as often as once a month could work.

And Meagan Johnson, an expert on fostering optimum workplaces that feature multi-generations (and co-author of Generations, Inc.) thinks a Stay Interview should be scheduled immediately “if you feel that someone’s becoming discouraged, disheartened, burnt out,” or similar.

Adds Peacock: “The most important thing is for the employee to know you will listen on a regular basis.”

  • Telegraph Clearly That the Stay Interview Will Be a Safe Space for the Employee: The very premise of the Stay Interview—‘Tell me what’s on your mind, good and bad’—demands real trust from the employee.

This means you’ll want to be sure employees are convinced they won’t be penalized for what they say.

Says Mulligan: “Executed properly, stay interviews provide a safe, structured discussion for team members to share their career growth aspirations, how they prefer to be led, engaged and recognized.”

  • Be Prepared to Dig Deep: The more granular you’re able to get with your Stay Interview, the more likely you’ll be able to effect real, productive change.

Jim Peacock, owner/principal, Peak Careers Consulting, for example, discovered—with a little digging—that one of his employees was secretly pining for some imaging software. She wanted the new tool to enable her work to appear more artistic and professional.

Says Peacock: “This was a minor thing for me and a convenience thing for her. I would never have known if I had not asked her.”

  • Have Answers Ready for Those Tough Questions: While many managers are reluctant to do Stay Interviews for fear they’ll be unable to deliver on some employee requests, Kaye recommends managers be honest about what they’re actually able to do—and then focus on those capabilities.

“Our research has proved that if managers are willing to hang in and drill deeper,” they’ll be able to find three or four changes for an employee that they’re able to make, Kaye says.

  • Ensure You Follow Through: Probably the easiest way to sabotage your Stay Interviews is to nod and smile—and then do nothing.

Most employees realize that asking for the moon will get them nowhere. But they’ll also be thoroughly disenchanted if you ask them to share openly and then ignore all their concerns.

Says Platinum Group’s Murphy: “Letting them know they are heard by the actions you take after the interview is the most powerful thing you can do.” Adds Burr: “If the organization fails to act, employees will never trust the process again.”

Joe Dysart is an internet speaker and business consultant based in Manhattan.