12 Stay Interview Questions to Ask to Prevent Employees from Leaving

Employee turnover is a natural part of business. As much as we wish great talent would stay forever, many eventually move on to pursue new opportunities.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021 was a big year for quitting. The number of quits averaged at about 3.9 million with the number increasing to 4.5 million in November of the same year—the highest level ever recorded since BLS started producing this data in December 2000. 

The numbers were staggering so much so that the period was famously coined as the “Great Resignation” (a concept that we shall delve into further on in this article).

This means that you should be expecting fierce competition for your best talent, if you aren’t already.

As such, it is critical for you to keep an eye on your employees’ happiness and satisfaction with their jobs. The best way to do this is to ask employees directly about their thoughts and feelings during regular stay interviews.

Two professional women engaged in a focused discussion in an office setting.

What Is a “Stay interview?”

Staying on top of employee retention is a top priority for businesses across the globe. The best way to get ahead of the turnover curve is to collect, analyze, and act on data in a proactive manner and, that’s exactly what stay interviews exist to achieve.

Stay interviews are a take-charge approach of sorts to employee retention, in which managers meet one-on-one with high-performing employees to discuss how things are going and what can be done to make them even happier at work.

Why? Because employee turnover has serious consequences for a company. Did you know replacing an employee can cost as much as 150% of that employee’s annual salary?

Creating a list of stay interview questions is a good first step in preventing employees from leaving. A warm, well-timed and well-worded stay interview shows employees you care about them and are interested in their thoughts on what makes the workplace great.

Stay Interviews vs. Exit Interviews

Exit interviews are a valuable tool for understanding why people leave your company and have become a standard part of the employee lifecycle. Many companies will invite employees to sit down with a manager or HR representative upon their departure. 

These conversations give employers a chance to learn about the employee’s time at the company, but they don’t provide much opportunity for feedback. The timing of these surveys creates a problem in many cases in that by the time an employee is leaving, it may be too late to remedy the situation. 

What this means is that you’re losing information that can help you retain other employees when you need it most.

Stay Interview Questions As a Solution

Stay interview questions focus on understanding what employees enjoy about working for your company and what needs improvement. They can provide insight about how to keep staff engaged and how to get more out of them with minimal effort. 

The goal of these interviews is to find out what makes employees happy at work, what would make them more content, and what changes they would like to see within the company or department.

Stay interviews are usually conducted by a manager or supervisor. They are similar to exit interviews in that they focus on how the company can improve, but the purpose of stay interviews is to find out why employees stay with a company so those factors can be enhanced.

Stay interviews seek to identify what motivates employees to stay with an organization long-term. The interview questions should be designed to learn about what makes an employee’s job satisfying and fulfilling, and what could make it even better. 

The questions should address an employee’s personal goals, professional development, job satisfaction and relationship with his or her manager.

12 Stay Interview Questions to Ask to Improve Retention

Here are some questions designed to help you understand why employees might be thinking of leaving:

1. What Do You Love About Your Job?

This question helps you identify what really matters to your employees and how they feel about the company. It also lets you know what motivates them and gets them out of bed in the morning. 

By learning more about their passions, strengths and interests, you can help them stay engaged in their work and ensure they’re a good fit for their roles.

2. What Is the Best Thing About Working Here?

Asking this question will reveal what you are doing right as a company. Encourage them to share all the positive aspects of their job. From there, you can expand on those things that make your company a great place to work. 

Also, be sure to keep track of these positive experiences so that you can incorporate them into your recruitment efforts.

3. Is There Anything We Could Do as a Company To Help You Make Your Job Better or More Enjoyable?

This question might seem similar to the second one, but it’s aimed specifically at management practices.

 The answers could range from being able to work from home two days a week or having additional training materials available to them. It’s important that they know they have an open door and can come to you with ideas and suggestions.

4. What Do You Look For in a New Position?

This question will allow you to see what other opportunities may be out there for your employees. If they’re looking for something that isn’t offered within your company, take note of it and keep it in mind when new positions open up.

5. Do You Feel Comfortable Sharing Your Ideas With People Here? Why or Why Not?

If the employee says “no” and has a valid reason, it’s worth noting that reason and working on it. If they say “yes” but have a reason why they wouldn’t recommend your company to others, this could be a good starting point to discuss what they think the company is missing out on.

6. What Frustrates You Most About Working Here?

Give the employee time to explain what bothers them at work. The more specific they are, the better (for example, “There isn’t enough time in the day” is less helpful than “I have too many meetings”).

7. Would You Recommend Working Here to Your Friends or Family Members? Why or Why Not?

If they indicate a willingness to recommend your team or company, it’s a good sign. If they’re not willing, it’s time to probe further. Is there something specific that’s holding them back? This can help you determine whether the employee has a problem that can be fixed or if it’s something bigger (for example, your team culture).

8. How Would You Describe Our Company Culture?

Most workers want to feel a sense of belonging in the workplace, but they may not always know if they have that at your company. Asking this stay interview question gives employees a chance to share their thoughts on your culture and what it means to work for your organization.

9. Why Did You Join the Company?

This is an excellent stay interview question to ask because it provides insight into how the employee initially felt about the company and why he or she decided to join. 

It also gives you an idea of what motivated them to accept their position and why they chose your company over others. The answers you receive can help you determine whether or not your organization is meeting the expectations of job applicants.

10. What Would Make You Feel More Successful in Your Role?

Few people enter a role and think, “This is it for me, I’ll never want to move up or move on.” Asking this question allows you to get an idea of what your employees value and what motivates them, providing insight into how they view their career.

11. What Makes Someone Successful Here at Our Company?

The answer to this stay interview question will depend on what your team values in their colleagues, and will be an important indicator of their cultural fit. For example, if they respond by saying great results are what defines success, they might be more concerned with the bottom line than with how they’re achieving it. 

If they say something like “working well with others” or “being able to collaborate effectively” is most important, you might have a different type of employee who is less concerned about measurable results and more about how the work gets done.

12. Do You Feel Like Your Work Matters?

Ask this stay interview question because it’s important that employees understand why their work has value to the company and how it contributes to the overall success of the business. If employees don’t understand the importance of their work, they might not see value in their jobs, which could result in low morale and high turnover.

Stay Interview Best Practices

There is a right and wrong way for HR professionals to go about stay interviews. Familiarizing yourself with the best methods to conduct stay interviews can improve the overall outcome of the process. Let’s highlight a few of them below:

Have a Conversation 

Stay interviews are not just another form to fill out. They’re conversations, much like the ones you have with your customers. Make it a two-way dialogue so employees feel free to speak candidly and honestly.

Make Time for It

Don’t schedule a stay interview right before or after an employee’s performance review or during your busiest season. Choose a time when you can focus on the conversation and be fully present.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

You want to hear real answers, not just “yes” or “no.” Ask open-ended stay interview questions that will give you more insight into what your employees are thinking and feeling and how they can contribute more.

Don’t Just Ask About Work

Get personal too. Ask about your employees’ lives outside of work, to see if there is anything else going on that may be contributing to their happiness or unhappiness at work.

Be Respectful of Privacy and Confidentiality

Let employees know that any information they share during a stay interview will be kept confidential as much as possible (within reason). Employees who do not want to participate in stay interviews should not be forced to answer any questions they are uncomfortable with. 

The Great Resignation and How Stay Interviews Can Help

The Great Resignation is defined as the higher-than-normal quit rate by American employees to leave their jobs from the spring of 2021 and continued well into the fall. 

Unlike the recession of 2008, the Great Resignation is not an economic downturn forcing people out of work; it’s people actively leaving their jobs to pursue something new.

Why Is It Happening Now?

Employees are in a stronger position right now than they have been in a long time, and they know it. Many industries are hiring at high rates, and there is a low unemployment rate across the country. This makes it easier for people to find new jobs. 

Simultaneously, the talent shortage continues to worsen as companies struggle to find qualified candidates. These two factors combine to create high turnover in many fields, but especially in those with high levels of expertise (IT workers) or customer-facing roles (retail). 

There are three primary reasons for The Great Resignation:

  1. Employees quit when they don’t feel appreciated, recognized or valued.
  2. Employees quit when they’re not being permitted to use their skills, talents or competencies.
  3. Employees quit when they feel like they have no future at their current company — which can happen if managers are poor communicators or don’t seem interested in developing their direct reports.

How Stay Interviews Can Help

How can employers retain top talent? They must understand what motivates each individual—and stay interviews are a great way to do this. Stay interviews are conversations with employees who haven’t given notice but may be considering it. 

These conversations enable managers to discover what their employees think, feel and believe about their jobs, co-workers, managers and the organization as a whole.

KnowledgeCity’s HR and Management Courses

Employee turnover can have a costly impact on companies. That’s why it’s important to follow best practices and implement strategies to keep your employees happy and engaged at work.

KnowledgeCity offers several courses including Best Practices in Talent Management and Supervisors and Workplace Culture that help HR managers stay on top of their game. The courses focus on providing you with the tools and methods you need to improve the strategic planning of your HR department and be more effective as a leader in Human Resources. 

You will learn how to develop a succession plan, create career paths for your employees, and design effective onboarding processes for future hires.

In addition, this course will cover how to attract, recruit and retain top-tier talent for your organization, as well as how to select those candidates with the skill sets that most effectively match the needs of the company. 

Feel free to also check out our free guide on how to implement a successful training program.

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