Conducting ‘Stay’ Interviews: Our Top 4 Opening Questions.


We are in a time when most organisations are struggling to attract and retain talent. However, conducting one simple intervention can help reduce turnover dramatically. 

The team at HOED Research have concluded that “stay interviews” need to be normalised as a key operational strategy. Stay interviews are a powerful tool in helping managers retain top talent and maintain engagement.

“In one study, conducting stay interviews in the burnout-filled halls of a hospital was found to reduce turnover by 40 percent”.


What is a Stay Interview?

We’ve all heard of exit interviews by which departing employees are interviewed about their experience to identify how the organisation can improve moving forward. Whilst exit interviews can be extremely valuable, if you want to encourage existing employees to remain on the team, or in the company, then why wait until they decide to leave to discover how to make the job more enjoyable and attractive?

This is when stay interviews come into their own as a tool. They’re modelled after an exit interview but are tailored to understanding your people, what motivates them, how their job could be improved etc. 

In this article, we’ll talk about how to conduct stay interviews including how to get ready for one, and five powerful questions you can ask.

When preparing for a stay interview, you need to establish that the meeting is something totally different from a formal performance review or a one-on-one coaching session. Alternatively, a great option is to bring in a third party (independent) like the HOED Research team to complete online or telephone interviews on your behalf, and report back with key findings. You will find that employees open up more when speaking with an outside entity as they do not feel pressured to “say the right thing”. 

How do you invite someone to a stay interview?

It should be very simple and informal. For Example: “You’re a valuable member of the team and I’d love your feedback on how we can make your job and the team better. Could we chat for 30 minutes sometime soon?”

Here are a few powerful questions that we use to obtain the most valuable feedback:

1 – What do you look forward to when you start your workday?

This should always be your first question. This question uses ‘anticipation’ to uncover the favourite parts of each person’s workday. For example, we could ask what the things they’re most looking forward to about their average workday during the time before they actually arrive at work, whether that be during their commute or whilst they’re getting ready. Asking questions like this gets people to visualise the answer in more depth. 

Answers can include being social with their colleagues, or it may be a specific task they get to do. But the purpose of the anticipation is to highlight the tasks or activities that you may want to help them do more often.

2 – What are you learning in your job?

Do you notice how we speak about learning in the present tense? Because It’s not only about what they’ve learned or been trained on, but also about the lessons and experiences they are going to continue to acquire. 

Research has shown that progress or career growth itself is a powerful motivator for most people in their careers but if there isn’t any current or consistent growth happening, people can easily become disengaged. Therefore, this question helps us learn not just how each person measures their progress but also if they’re not progressing fast enough to keep them engaged.

3 – When was the last time you thought about leaving?

This question requires some trust between you and your people. Many business leaders are afraid to ask it. However, since this is a stay interview, you can have confidence that at any time they did think about leaving, they then rethought about it and stayed. Regardless, the value of this question lies in identifying what incentives from other companies or jobs would motivate them to leave – especially if there is something your organisation can do to bring those incentives into their current job.

4 – What can I do to make your job better?

This is a great final question in a stay interview because we have already delved into why people stay or what would tempt them away from a position. This foundation sets us up to begin to uncover some things you can do to make your employee’s jobs better. However, this question bridges any gaps in the conversation and opens up doors to anything that hasn’t been covered. 

By asking this question, it sends the message that you’re open to just about anything. Even if your business cannot deliver on their suggestions, you will still benefit from knowing it. As a manager of a team, this is also a great time to get feedback that can help you improve not just with one person, but the entire team.

Conclusion:
After the interview is complete and the company has taken the time to process all the feedback received, it is important to make sure you reconnect with each person a week or so later and reiterate your appreciation and share your ideas for what changes you can make. Every interview conducted should uncover a few things that can be changed, ultimately, those few changes will add up over time and help each person and the team as a whole do, their best work ever.

How can the team at HOED Research help you?

With many years of experience conducting interviews and developing strategic questions that will deliver the best feedback, the team at HOED Research can conduct stay interviews on your behalf with either online or by phone. A complete report will be provided for each interview and if several Stay Interviews are conducted at the workplace, a consolidated report is provided, highlighting the most extreme factors that require attention. So, if you’re tired of worrying about your staff or simply don’t have the time to gather the feedback you need, we are happy to help. Feel free to give us a call or contact us via our website today.