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Keys to Successful Stay Interviews

Jul 3, 2017
Deb Muller


For decades, companies have followed the practice of exit interviews. That is, when an employee gives notice, either their manager or an HR leader sits down to discuss why they are leaving and seek any feedback the employee has for how the company could improve. While there is merit to this practice, organizations across the globe are discovering that waiting until an employee has decided to leave to seek feedback may be way too late.

For this reason, organizations are making use of stay interviews. Stay interviews give leaders an opportunity to find out why current employees stay with the company and, in real time, what feedback the employee may have for improvement. Better than employee surveys or engagement questionnaires, stay interviews allow leader and employee to have honest conversations about their work, long term goals and satisfaction with the work they are doing and company they are doing it for.

Employees want to know that their voices are being heard. They are more likely to feel engaged and satisfied with their work when they have the opportunity to have real, open conversations with company leaders. Furthermore, stay interviews offer leaders the opportunities to identify areas in the business that could be hindering employee engagement and make improvements before employees decide to leave. Stay interviews help build trust and contribute to a culture of authenticity.

There are several key fundamentals of stay interviews that are essential to success. Without the following in place, the stay interview can turn out to be nothing more than a waste of time for both employee and leader.

CULTURE OF TRUST AND HONEST COMMUNICATION In order for employees to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts during a stay interview, they have to trust the leader conducting the interview and the company itself. They have to feel comfortable sharing any negative feedback they may have and know that it will be heard without repercussion. They also have to believe that the feedback will be taken seriously, otherwise they may not be motivated to share freely.

If your organization lacks trust and open communication, stay interviews are not going to deliver the results you need.


No matter how you collect employee feedback, whether in survey form or through stay interviews, the data is only as good as what you do with it. Employees will share valuable information in stay interviews and need to see that the feedback is taken seriously and used to improve the employee experience. Documenting the feedback and openly sharing any plans to address that feedback will go a long way in ensuring the success of future stay interviews.


A final key to successful stay interviews is to ask open-ended questions that allow the employee to dominate the conversation. Should the employee share something that is misunderstood, do not defend or appear defensive, simply note that misunderstanding as an action item for later. Stay interviews are information gathering sessions, not opportunities to defend management decisions. Use follow-up time later to explain misunderstandings, but keep the stay interview open and defense-free.

In an environment where open communication is welcomed and celebrated, stay interviews are a great way to gain much needed feedback from employees. They allow organizations to get ahead of anything that could be driving talent away. More importantly, they help an organization understand employee career goals and it’s role in helping achieve those goals. On the whole, stay interviews are a reinforcement of a culture of authenticity and openness that many organizations strive for.

Deb Muller
Deb Muller is the CEO of HR Acuity, employee relations case management and investigations software that combines documentation, process, and human expertise so organizations can meet the challenge of managing employee relations in the modern world.

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