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Employee Engagement

Stay Interview Best Practices: What Can Companies Do To Keep Their Best People?

Rebecca Noori
Last Updated January 25, 2024

Like a game of chess, your employees are constantly plotting their next move. Some might be working towards an internal promotion or lateral role change. Others will be actively seeking work elsewhere and courting interest from your competitors. The challenge is working out every single employee's next step and how to change their mind if they're heading for the exit. 

Employees aren't obliged to stay with one employer for life. However, they might be willing to stick around for the long haul if the organization offers the right growth opportunities to ensure their success. Working out what your employees think is crucial to keeping your top talent on board, and it's the essence of an effective stay interview.

What Is A Stay Interview? 

A stay or retention interview is a conversation in which employees discuss what they like about their role, what motivates them, and what they want to change. Even though the dialogue is structured, it can feel informal and friendly, creating a safe space for employees to share their thoughts and feelings. This helps companies understand what is essential to their workforce while providing them the support they need to stay engaged and committed to their jobs. 

Kayla Naab, Co-founder & Humanization Consultant at Mindful Dynamic Consulting, unravels why stay interviews are a goldmine of information for leaders who want to know what their employees feel about their company. 

"Stay interviews are a fantastic way to highlight frustrations with everything from leadership and policies, to compensation and work flexibility, to productivity roadblocks like insufficient tech or slow approvals. There is no limit to what your employees know that you don't."

6 Benefits Of Holding Stay Interviews

Employers willing to commit to the stay interview process will enjoy multiple benefits, including:

1. Spot Workplace Trends

Employees' feedback can highlight patterns and issues that may have gone unnoticed, such as high employee turnover rates or recurring grievances. This information allows companies to proactively address these problems before they escalate. Speaking on the People at Work podcast, Within People Partner Bev Attfield explains:

"Having that 1:1 with someone is a very healthy way to understand, across the organization, what sort of themes and trends there are emerging as well as any potential individual red flags you might be able to spot when someone's not doing well."

2. Retain Your Workers

Employee retention strategies keep recruitment costs low and establishes an environment of camaraderie among long-tenure team members. Our Nectar research of 800 full-time employees found that 93.5% of employees would stay at a company for five years if the culture were great and they were paid fairly, proving that tenure and a healthy company culture go hand-in-hand.

Stay interviews are one way employers learn what's working well (or not.) A Paychex study revealed that 27% of HR decision-makers use them to learn about employees' needs and aspirations. However, the prevalence of these interviews correlates with organizational size, with larger companies being 42% more likely than small companies to hold stay conversations.

SMEs could be missing an opportunity here, as the act of holding the interview can turn the tide on disengagement. It sends a positive message to your team that you value their contribution and want to support them in their career development.

3. Improve Employer Branding

An employer’s image can be a deciding factor in attracting and retaining the best talent in the market. Statistics show that 69% of employees would reject a job offer from a company with a negative employer brand, even if they were unemployed, highlighting why branding is worth the investment.

Stay interviews can support employer branding by pinpointing what employees care about, enabling you to plunge resources into the areas employees value most.

Example: The results of your stay interview highlight a common theme around work-life balance. You react by investing in wellness programs or flexible working arrangements to attract more employees interested in these supportive features.

4. Uncover Toxic Work Environments

Toxic company cultures can take many forms, from micromanagement to bullying and harassment. These behaviors destroy morale, reduce productivity, increase turnover rates, and damage the company's reputation and bottom line.

Conducting stay interviews opens up an opportunity for employees to voice concerns about workplace toxicity. From here, companies can address any issues head-on before they escalate and become more challenging.

5. Highlight Areas For Improvement

Stay interviews can also reveal areas where the company may fall short in terms of employee satisfaction and engagement. For example, an employee may express a desire for professional development opportunities or better leadership communication. These valuable insights can help companies make targeted improvements to create a happier and more productive workforce.

6. Strengthen The Employer-Employee Relationship

When a manager sits down with their direct report to discuss their job satisfaction and career aspirations, this has a powerful impact on the employer-employee relationship. We know from Gallup’s “State of the American Manager” report that managers account for up to 70% of the variance in employee engagement rates. Stay interviews are a mechanism that proves a manager is committed to supporting their direct report in their role.

The 6 benefits of holding stay interviews


When To Conduct A Stay Interview

Finding the time to sit down with specific staff members can be a challenge, and naturally, you won't want stay interviews to eat up too much of your business operations hours. An important aspect of your interview strategy is choosing when and how frequently to host these discussions.


New joiners are particularly vulnerable to turnover; a Jobvite report finds that 30% of workers have left a job within the first 90 days of starting for the following reasons:

  • 41% stated the day-to-day role didn’t meet their expectations 
  • 35% have experienced an incident  
  • 34% didn’t like the company culture 
  • 32% felt the company leadership was unsatisfactory

To support your new joiners before they become ex-employees, host stay interviews during and following onboarding to answer questions, offer reassurance, and understand their experience of your company so far.


Stay interviews shouldn’t be a one-and-done exercise. Schedule regular check-ins to keep in touch with employee sentiment and ensure your team feels supported and heard. An annual or biannual interview process is a popular solution, but you may decide to hold them more frequently if you’re concerned about employee retention rates. 

 CEO Erik Pham explains the cadence that Health Canal uses: 

“At Health Canal, we recognize the dynamic nature of the work environment, and as such, we tailor our approach to stay interviews based on the company's stage of development. For new startups, we recommend conducting stay interviews every three months. This frequent cadence allows us to stay closely connected with employees during the crucial early stages, ensuring that their experiences and needs are continuously addressed.
For more established companies, we advocate for a six-month interval between stay interviews. This timeframe strikes a balance, providing a regular touchpoint while accommodating the maturity of processes and structures within the organization. Regardless of the stage, the goal is to maintain an ongoing dialogue that fosters employee satisfaction and identifies areas for improvement."

High Turnover

If you notice a sudden exodus from a particular department or branch, conducting stay interviews with those remaining employees could help prevent further losses. Stay interviews offer an opportunity to uncover underlying issues such as poor management or a disruptive team member and helps companies take corrective action before employee attrition occurs.

Market Changes

As markets evolve and innovations emerge in every industry, some of your specialist or top-performing employees may become highly sought-after by competitors. For example, an AI engineer may suddenly find more lucrative jobs in a different organization, where the demand for their skills far outstrips supply. In this scenario, hosting stay interviews can help you identify what it would take to keep them engaged and loyal to your company rather than jumping ship.

Nectar Tip: Try conducting all your stay interviews within a few days of each other to provide you with a wealth of actionable insights to compare and contrast. This data allows you to spot specific areas for improvement that are relevant across the entire organization.

How To Conduct A Stay Interview

The nuts and bolts of conducting a stay interview involve the following key steps:

  • Choose who will host the interview: Typically, the person's manager or an HR leader. 
  • Invite your employees to the interview: Ideally, you'll interview everyone, but you may choose to start with highly skilled personnel or new joiners. 
  • Ask your prepared questions: Keep these consistent across interviews to draw easy comparisons. 
  • Review the data: Crawl your qualitative and quantitative data to spot common themes to act on. 
  • Take action: Based on your interview conclusions, make changes where necessary and communicate these promptly.

How to conduct a stay interview

7 Stay Interview Best Practices

Like any interview, there's an art in encouraging open dialogue where informal conversation flows, and everyone feels comfortable engaging in the process. Follow these best practices to maximize the experience for all parties:

1. Communicate Your Stay Interview Process

Always start by communicating what is involved in the stay interview, and ideally, share this information before your meeting. Include:

  • The reason for the interview 
  • The process, including who will conduct the interview and the type of questions they’ll ask
  • How you plan to use the data you collect

This transparency will put your valuable employees at ease and allow them to prepare for the conversation with more thought.

2. Create A Psychologically Safe Space

A successful stay interview requires employees to feel psychologically safe and comfortable voicing their opinions rather than worrying about repercussions from saying the "wrong" thing. Kayla Naab explains what happens when this is missing: “Without a foundation of trust, there's a risk that your employees will placate you or lie to keep their jobs.” 

We spoke to Samantha Odo, Real Estate Sales Representative & Montreal Division Manager at Precondo, who offered some tips on how to create a culture of trust and psychological safety:   

“My starting point when doing stay interviews is to let the employee know the purpose of the interview—to understand their experience and gather feedback to improve the workplace. Some employees may be hesitant to share negative experiences or criticisms for fear of repercussions. To overcome this, I emphasize that the stay interview is a confidential and judgment-free zone and that their honesty is crucial for us to make meaningful improvements.”

3. Keep Your Questions Consistent

Along with keeping your questions consistent across stay interviews with different employees, it’s also worth using the same questions during each interview program. 

VP of People and Business Ops Angie Bergner holds quarterly stay interviews for Veris Insights. Speaking on the People at Work podcast, she explained the benefits of using consistent questions by allowing employees to prep for their meeting:

"Every team member knows and understands the categories of questions in any given quarter. So, for us, they typically come with bulleted lists, ready to go. They know, "Here's what people ops are going to ask us," and those topics are firm-wide."

4. Actively Listen To Your Employees

A stay interview is not an annual performance review or a one-sided conversation about what the company expects of its current employees. It’s an opportunity to listen actively and absorb valuable feedback. This means giving your employees enough time to talk, hearing them out fully, and not interrupting with constructive feedback or jumping in with clarifying questions too soon.

5. Remember, It's Not An Exit Interview

People often confuse stay and exit interviews, but although they follow a similar format, they have different intentions. While exit interviews focus on what went wrong that caused an employee to leave, stay interviews are a vehicle for opportunity. If you're quick enough, stay conversations with employees provide enough detail for you to nip problems in the bud and create an organizational culture that everyone is excited to be a part of for the long term.

6. Review Your Data

While interviews are a chance to sit down and have a pleasant and productive conversation with your employees, remember to focus on the data generated by the interview process. Erik Pham advises asking the right questions to produce rich qualitative data. He shares:

“We believe that the effectiveness of stay interviews depends on the depth of insights gained. To achieve this, our interviews are open-ended and conversational. We avoid yes/no or simple answer questions so that employees have the space to express their thoughts, concerns, and aspirations freely.”

Similarly, it's important to distinguish between the data produced from stay interviews and engagement surveys. While they both check the pulse of your workforce, interviews and employee surveys link to different parts of the process. Angie Bergner explains:

"Employee engagement surveys play their part in giving you real-life data; they give you the benchmarking ability, and they do all of the things that they need to do. To me, that's the quantitative side. For me, the stay interview is the qualitative equivalent to the employee engagement survey; it's part of this bigger system. We do employee engagement surveys twice a year, that's good for high-level benchmarking purposes, but doing stay interviews quarterly is informing with qualitative data what's coming out of our quantitative data."

7. Commit To Positive Action

Finally, your stay interviews will only be effective if you take action based on what you've learned from the process. Kayla Naab offers tips on how to inspire positive change: 

"The most important part of a stay interview isn't what you learn. It's what you do with what you've learned. Your employees will only be MORE disenfranchised if you ask them to share but then demonstrate no intent to fix the problems they've underlined. Publicize common concerns alongside your tactical plan to improve things. Often, the employee who raised an issue would be the perfect person to drive solutions around that issue, with help from leadership."

Stay interview best practices

50 Stay Interview Questions

Questions create the structure of your stay interview, serving as a guide to keep the conversation flowing and ensure that your employees have a chance to get everything off their chest. Here are a mix of closed and open-ended questions to ask throughout the entire employee life cycle. We suggest you select a handful of questions from each category for a well-rounded approach to your stay interview:

Work-Life Balance

  1. How do you feel about your current work-life balance?
  2. Are there any changes we could make to help you better balance your work and personal life?
  3. Do you feel your current workload is manageable?
  4. How often do you feel stressed about work outside of work hours?
  5. Can you share your thoughts on our current remote or flexible work policies?
  6. What would your ideal work schedule look like?
  7. How supported do you feel in managing personal responsibilities alongside your work?
  8. Are there any specific tools, resources, or benefits packages that could improve your work-life balance?
  9. Do you have enough time off for rest and relaxation?
  10. Do you feel you could approach your manager with any concerns related to your work-life balance?

Work Environment

  1. How comfortable do you feel in your current work environment?
  2. Is there anything about the physical workspace that you would change?
  3. How do you feel about the current noise and activity level in your work area?
  4. What are your thoughts on our office's safety and cleanliness?
  5. How does the work environment affect your motivation and productivity?
  6. Are there any tools or equipment that would enhance your employee experience? 
  7. How do you feel about the amenities and facilities we provide?
  8. Does our work environment support collaboration and creativity?
  9. Can we do anything to make your day-to-day work environment more efficient?
  10. How do you feel about our company's hybrid/remote/return-to-the-office policy?

Recognition and Rewards

  1. Do you feel recognized and appreciated for your contributions?
  2. What form of recognition do you find most motivating?
  3. Are there any recent accomplishments you feel went unnoticed?
  4. How satisfied are you with the current reward and recognition system?
  5. What changes, if any, would you suggest for our employee recognition programs?
  6. How important to you is public recognition vs. private recognition?
  7. Do you feel that recognition is timely? 
  8. Do you feel comfortable giving recognition to your peers and manager? 
  9. Are there any specific rewards or incentives you would like to see introduced?
  10. Does the current system fairly acknowledge everyone's contributions?

Professional Development

  1. Do you see a clear career path for yourself here? 
  2. Do you feel comfortable having development and performance management conversations with your manager? 
  3. Do you see yourself here for the short-term, medium-term, or long-term? 
  4. Are there specific skills or areas you're interested in developing?
  5. Do you feel supported in your professional goals and aspirations?
  6. How can we better support your professional growth? For example, are there any training sessions or workshops you would find beneficial?
  7. Are you interested in mentorship or coaching opportunities?
  8. How well do you feel your talents are utilized in your current role?
  9. What can we do to help you prepare for your future dream job?
  10. Are professional development opportunities available at all ranks and areas of the company?


  1. How would you rate the communication from management and leadership?
  2. Do you feel comfortable providing honest feedback to your supervisors?
  3. Are there any communication barriers that you experience?
  4. How can we improve communication within your team?
  5. Do you feel well-informed about company changes and decisions?
  6. How can we make our internal communication more effective?
  7. Do you feel your voice is heard and considered in decision-making processes?
  8. What methods of communication do you prefer (for example, email, meetings, one-on-ones)?
  9. Does company communication feel transparent?
  10. How satisfied are you with the frequency and clarity of feedback you receive about your work?

Stay Interview Template 

Need to kickstart your stay interview process? Our stay interview template provides the perfect starting point for guided conversations with your employees. You’ll work through a pre-interview checklist to ensure the employee feels comfortable with the process, then select interview questions from six categories. The template also provides follow-up action points demonstrating your commitment to your employees.

Click to download Nectar's free stay interview template via Google Docs.

Challenge Your Managers To Hold Stay Interviews 

Stay interviews offer numerous retention and company culture benefits, but holding these individual meetings can be undoubtedly time-consuming. One way to incentivize managers and employees to squeeze them into their busy schedules is to set up a stay interview challenge, which works as follows:

  1. Use Nectar's Challenge feature to build your Stay Interview challenge—you might offer different challenges for managers to host them, and individual employees to attend them. You'll set a number of Nectar points, for example, 50 to 100 points for every completed interview.
  2. You'll set a timeframe for the challenge. For example, the challenge could expire after a month (or you could choose to make it ongoing.)
  3. Challenge participants must prove they've completed the challenge. For example, they could upload a screenshot of interview notes or a picture taken during the meeting.
  4. An administrator or manager will approve the challenge completion. Alternatively, you can set up auto-approval and spot-check an audit log if needed. 
  5. Once approved, the challenge participant will receive Nectar points in their account, which they can spend on Amazon products, charity donations, company swag, gift cards, or custom rewards.
How to run a stay interview challenge inside Nectar.

Ready to learn more about your employees' experience working for your company? Take a free demo of Nectar today to learn how to engage every individual team member in your organization.

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