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Surveys & Engagement

A guide to retaining & engaging your people with stay interviews (+31 questions to ask!)

Leapsome Team
A guide to retaining & engaging your people with stay interviews (+31 questions to ask!)
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Retention is always a concern for people professionals, but that’s never been more true than right now. A comprehensive Gallagher report found that in 2023, employee retention was the top priority across human resources and operations departments.*

Recruiting and hiring talented individuals is difficult, time-intensive, and costs a lot of money, so it makes sense to prioritize retaining your best people.

Stay interviews are an effective but underutilized retention strategy that any organization interested in keeping top talent around should implement. That’s why we wrote this handy guide to stay interviews and compiled a free, downloadable list of the best 31 questions you should ask. Let’s get going!

*Gallagher, 2023

😎 Run stay interviews like a pro

Our free, downloadable list of 31 effective questions will help you get to the heart of employee engagement and satisfaction.

👉 Download our questions

What is a stay interview?

A stay interview is a conversation between a manager or HR team member and an employee — often a top performer — to understand how they feel about their current professional situation. Stay interviews aim to find out what the person enjoys about working for the company, why they’ve chosen to stay in their role up until that point, and what the organization needs to do to engage and retain them in the long run.

Matthias Spitzmuller, Distinguished Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Smith School of Business, points out that it’s most important to conduct stay interviews for “the positions that are really difficult to replace and that have historically been subject to the highest turnover rates.”

Stay interviews shouldn’t happen only when a team member shows signs that they want to leave their job. A better approach is to run these interviews regularly to proactively assess what’s going well, what needs to be improved, and what can be done to enrich employees’ work experience overall.

Stay interviews often take a format similar to regular 1:1 meetings between managers and reports. However, rather than asking general check-in questions about your employees’ day-to-day work, challenges, and development, focus the conversation on learning how happy the team member is with their position and what would improve or deepen their overall satisfaction. HR team members usually run stay interviews rather than direct managers, and the questions tend to be more standardized than the diverse range of topics that might come up in 1:1s.

Why conduct a stay interview?

A photo of two professionals having a sit-down 1:1 discussion in a professional environment.

Stay interviews are a fundamental part of any people-centered retention strategy

There’s one main reason that modern organizations should carry out regular stay interviews — they’re an underutilized strategy that can have a significant impact on employee retention.

Our recent Workforce Trends Report underlined that holding onto top performers is an ongoing challenge for people professionals: “Attracting and retaining top talent, especially in competitive job markets, can be difficult and time-consuming.”

A Nonprofit HR study found that 72% of participants conducted exit interviews, whereas just 28% ran stay interviews, while Gallup reports that 52% of people who voluntarily resigned from their jobs said their managers or organizations could have done something to prevent them from leaving. Stay interviews are an excellent way of uncovering the problems or frustrations that team members are experiencing in their roles. This gives people professionals the opportunity to take meaningful, targeted action before employees quit.

HR teams should never underestimate the power of checking in and asking for team members’ candid perspectives and opinions. 

Beyond retaining key staff, companies that organize regular stay interviews experience benefits such as:

  • More open, honest communication between employees, managers, and leaders
  • Increased team member satisfaction and engagement levels
  • Deeper trust, interpersonal relationships, and employee loyalty
  • More proactive problem-solving
  • Better, more frequent assessment of team member well-being and happiness
💭 “There’s a human tendency to fight fires — meaning deal with something when it becomes a mess — but not be proactive. Stay interviews help you proactively manage your talent, versus just scrambling when an A team player shares that they’re leaving.”

Roxanne Bras Petraeus, Chief Executive Officer at Ethena
👏 Stay interviews retain top performers

Our Meetings module is the perfect tool to set up, streamline, and automate stay interviews across your whole organization.

👉
Learn more

Free download: Our top 31 stay interview questions

A screenshot of page one of Leapsome’s list of stay interview questions.

Our list of stay interview questions is a springboard to having valuable conversations with your people. The categories here cover the full employee lifecycle, from job satisfaction to work-life balance, compensation, and benefits, to company culture and professional growth. 

Pick and choose the questions that are most relevant to your company and the individual you’re speaking with — and make sure to give interviewees the time and space to add any other thoughts they may have. 

Running thoughtful stay interviews is key to gaining meaningful insights into your top talent's experiences, concerns, and goals.

⭐ Retain your top talent with stay interviews

Use our list of questions to explore employee satisfaction from all angles so you can keep your best people around for the long haul.

👉
Download our questions

31 effective stay interview questions & why you should ask them

It can be tricky to decide on the best questions to ask in stay interviews. While questions should be personalized to the employee, you’ll also want to standardize your prompts to some degree so you can re-use techniques that have worked well in the past.

That’s why we developed this versatile selection of effective stay interview questions across different topics. If you don’t know where to begin, choose prompts from the list below that are relevant to your team member and their needs.

Job satisfaction

It’s only logical to ask stay interview questions that get straight to the heart of whether an employee is happy in their current position. That way, HR professionals can quickly understand what’s standing in the way of the team member feeling satisfied with their job and determine actions they can take to improve the situation.

Some questions you may want to consider include:

  • What do you enjoy the most about your current role? Why?
  • Can you describe a recent professional accomplishment that made you feel proud?
  • Which specific tasks, responsibilities, or projects do you find particularly fulfilling or meaningful in your job? Why?
  • Do you enjoy your role as much as you did [x time period] ago? Why or why not?
  • Do you see yourself working with us in [x time period]? Why or why not?

Job challenges & concerns

Some team members may not be comfortable speaking openly about their job challenges and frustrations unless you ask them directly. Tellingly, Leapsome’s Workforce Trends Report revealed that as many as one-third of professionals don’t feel they can talk candidly with HR. 

In these cases, it’s ideal to ask stay interview questions targeted to problems the employee may experience in their position without putting them on the spot too much.

Try these:

  • What do you enjoy the least about your current role? Why?
  • Which specific tasks, responsibilities, or projects do you find particularly frustrating or stressful in your job? Why?
  • Are there any changes to our internal processes and procedures that would make it easier for you to do your job effectively?
  • Do you have access to the resources, tools, and technology you need to do your best work?
  • Does leadership and management support you adequately when you’re dealing with professional difficulties? Why or why not?

Work-life balance

Manageable work schedules and sufficient leisure and family time are increasingly critical to employee retention and satisfaction. Indeed, 74% of employees looking to change jobs cited work-life balance as a top reason for leaving in our State of People Enablement Report. A FlexJobs survey also found that two-thirds of participants would prioritize a better work-life balance over a pay raise.

Stay interview questions like these can help people professionals investigate how team members feel about work-life balance in their current position and whether their needs are being met:

  • What does work-life balance mean to you?
  • How do you feel about work-life balance in relation to your current role?
  • Are there times when your professional commitments have encroached on your personal time? Can you provide any examples?
  • Does our organization’s approach to work-life balance live up to your expectations?
  • Do you feel you have someone to talk to if you’re having problems with work-life balance?

Compensation & benefits

A screenshot of salary ranges within Leapsome's Compensation module.
Leapsome Compensation makes it easy for people leaders to understand and communicate defined salary bands in their proposals

It goes without saying that fair, competitive pay is one of the biggest factors influencing whether top talent stays with your organization for the long haul. However, compensation and benefits go deeper than the size of the paycheck. Our State of People Enablement Report revealed that having a transparent compensation and promotion framework in place was a key engagement driver for 53% of respondents

That means rather than just offering a competitive salary, organizations should clearly lay out their promotion processes, policies for performance rewards and retention bonuses, and approach to pay raises and benefits. 

Asking stay interview questions can help you get to the heart of how employees feel about the full package of compensation and benefits your company provides and understand their expectations:

  • Do you feel that your current compensation and benefits package is competitive and fair?
  • How does your current compensation compare with your expectations when you first joined the company?
  • Are there any improvements you’d like to see to your current compensation and benefits package?
  • Do you feel that you’re being compensated fairly for the impact and value you bring to our company?
  • If you could add any benefit to your current package, what would it be and why?
  • How do you feel about the organization’s approach to salary increases and bonuses?

Company culture

Building and maintaining a great company culture is no easy task, but it has a significant impact on how much people enjoy their workplace experience throughout the different stages of their tenure. In addition, Leapsome’s Workforce Trends Report found that negative workplace culture was recognized as a main driver of turnover by both HR leaders and employees.

Ask these stay interview questions to investigate the state of your company culture and how it impacts team members’ professional lives:

  • How would you describe our company culture in your own words?
  • Does our company culture align with your professional values and initial expectations? Why or why not?
  • Which elements of our company culture need improvement or refinement? 
  • Do you receive enough regular praise and recognition for the hard work that you do?
  • Are there any specific company events, traditions, or activities that you particularly enjoy and think contribute positively to the company culture?
Pro tip: 🤝 Want to dig deeper into creating and nurturing an excellent company culture that’ll enable employees to thrive and do their best work? We’ve got dedicated content for that. Read through our detailed People Ops Playbook on building a positive company culture and get motivated and inspired by our selection of excellent company culture examples.

Learning & professional development

A screenshot of the Learning Path administration interface within Leapsome's Learning module.
Our Learning module helps team leads and reports collaborate to establish customized Learning Paths based on career goals and professional interests

Learning and development opportunities are in demand from top professionals — but difficult for people teams to get right. While the Harvard Business Review recently found that 86% of employees said they’d switch jobs for one with more chances to grow, Leapsome’s Workforce Trends Report uncovered that developing and delivering effective training was a common pain point for HR leaders.

In the words of one respondent, “designing and delivering training programs tailored to the needs of employees and measuring the effectiveness of the training can be a challenging task.”

Exploring how team members feel about your company’s development opportunities not only provides insight into satisfaction rates, but also what HR team members can do to better address employees’ evolving training needs. 

Ask a range of questions, such as:

  • Does our organization give you access to sufficient professional development opportunities?
  • Are there any skills or areas of expertise you’d like to develop further? How can we support you in doing so?
  • Is there any training you believe would help you better navigate your role’s challenges?
  • Which specific professional development opportunities have you taken advantage of since working with us? Have they benefited you? Why or why not?
  • What are your long-term career aspirations? Do you feel that they align with your current role?
🙋 Need help navigating stay interviews?

Our comprehensive list of questions will help you approach stay interviews with confidence.

👉
Download our questions

Conduct effective, structured stay interviews with Leapsome

A screenshot of a sample 1:1 interface within Leapsome's Meetings module.
Our Meetings module can structure your stay interviews with sections for agenda points, action items, and other notes

Stay interviews are an effective retention strategy regardless of your company size, structure, or industry. Given that employee retention is top of mind for most people professionals, stay interviews should be an integral part of any HR team’s toolkit.

There are many ways to set up, manage, and carry out stay interviews, but using a holistic people enablement platform like Leapsome is an ideal way to streamline the process. That’s because it allows you to approach stay interviews — and other engagement and motivation initiatives — from several angles for a strong impact on employee turnover across multiple dimensions. 

Here’s how:

  • Use our Meetings module to make your stay interviews consistent and structured, complete with agenda points and action items. Once you find a framework and series of questions that works for you, you can set up a template in just a few clicks that you can reuse across departments and teams.
  • Our Surveys module will help you send out automated pulse and engagement surveys. This is particularly useful for companies that don’t have the team size or capacity to take on regular stay interviews. Instead, they can use our platform to analyze survey results and translate them into meaningful action and targeted initiatives. 
  • Try the Anonymous Suggestions Box feature so team members have a space to anonymously share key job satisfaction and engagement perspectives and concerns if they’re not comfortable doing so in a 1:1 check-in.

Ultimately, by combining proactive stay interviews and people enablement software like Leapsome, you can build a workplace culture teams genuinely enjoy — and want to stay in long-term.

🤝 Leapsome can be your partner-in-retention

Automate and streamline stay interviews, create custom 1:1 templates, send out anonymous pulse surveys, and set up anonymous suggestion boxes.

👉
Book a demo

Written By

Leapsome Team

Written by the team at Leapsome — the all-in-one people enablement platform for driving employee engagement, performance, and learning.
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