HR Management & Compliance

Why Not Stay Interviews Instead of Exit Interviews?

Retention and engagement depend on knowing who might leave and why, says consultant Leigh Branham of Keeping the People, Inc., and one of the keys is the “Stay Interview.”

Who should you conduct stay interviews with? Set your priorities by putting your employees into a table like this one, says Branham. Then start with your high value/high risk employees.

Identifying Employee Value & Flight Risk


High Risk

Medium Risk

Low Risk

High Value




Medium Value




Low Value




Conducting the “Stay” Interview

Keeping talent is a PROCESS that has to start somewhere; it is not an EVENT, says Branham. To get the ball rolling, reach out to the associate you want to interview in person 1 to 2 weeks in advance to schedule a 1-hour meeting, and reserve a quiet location where you will not be disturbed.

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Here’s what you do during the interview:

  • Let the associate know how much you value his or her contributions and that you want to do all you can to keep the person as engaged and successful as possible.
  • Ask the associate to be prepared to discuss:
  • What success looks like for him or her;
  • What challenges or concerns, if any, he or she may have; and
  •  What additional support and/or resources he or she needs, e.g., learning, advancement, equipment/tools, feeling valued, information, work-life benefits, etc.
  • Conduct the meeting using the questions provided below, practicing active listening skills, and making notes of the details.
  • Make a commitment to follow up with the associate within 2 weeks with an initial action plan.
  • Follow up with your manager immediately following the discussion to share what you have learned and to identify the necessary action steps.
  • Jointly develop an Individual Engagement/Retention Plan based on information gathered during the discussion.
  • Some ideas for inclusion in the action plan may be ways to make the associate’s job more challenging; a conference or networking opportunity, flexible work arrangements, etc.
  • Follow up with the associate within 2 weeks to share the action plan and time lines.

It is important that, along with continuing to drive the performance of your associates, you must also focus your attention on your ability to nurture the relationship along the way, says Branham.

Finally, he adds, be sure to follow up with the associate quarterly and near annual review time.

Branham’s Stay Interview Questions

Send these questions out to your employees ahead of time to give them the opportunity to think about what they want to say, Branham suggests.

  • Are you challenged in your day-to-day work?
  • What is most energizing about your work?
  • How could we more fully utilize your talents and capabilities?
  • What, if anything, is holding you back from being more effective?
  • What can we do to make your job more satisfying?
  • What can we do to support your career goals?
  • What keeps you here?
  • What might cause you to consider leaving the organization?
  • What would be the one thing that, if it changed in your current role, would make you consider moving on?
  • If you had a magic wand, what would be the one thing you would change about this department or company?
  • What was the best job you ever had and why?
  • In what areas would you most like to learn and grow?
  • What are your career goals? (short-term and long-term)
  • Out of what we have discussed today, what are the top 2 to 3 priorities of focus for you?
  • What knowledge and support will you need to help achieve your development goals?
  • What can I do as your manager to help you meet these development goals?

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The following additional questions may elicit tough feedback and your employees may need to practice giving it. Let them know that there will be no retaliation and no further dialogue. Just give them the opportunity to speak and practice being open. You just listen, says Branham.

  • What would you say is your biggest complaint or criticism of me?
  • What are some things you are working on that you are not being recognized for?
  • In what ways do you not feel open to communicate with me and what do I do to cause this?

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3 thoughts on “Why Not Stay Interviews Instead of Exit Interviews?”

  1. Why not STAY interviews? Absolutely. Particularly with there being so much talk these day about the future of work and career- and how the average employment term will fall to around 2-4 years leaving the idea of a ‘job for life’ in the past. The reason for this being that technology evolves so quickly that new skills are required and the job the employee was in, is extinct in a few years time. So these sorts of interviews enabling the employee to tell you how the job could be innovated, done better and made more engaging are crucial. If you’re an employer and you want your business to be agile and adapt to the times, then you need to LISTEN to what your employees are telling you. Obviously you want to retain your talent too, but there are bigger issues involved in that process also.

  2. Can the stay interview be incorporated in the performance evaluation, or should it be separate? And how frequent should these interviews be done?

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