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Using Stay Interviews to Increase Employee Retention

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Stay interviews are an efficient way to increase employee retention, if implemented effectively.

The school year has begun, and HR staff, campus administrators, and department supervisors have worked tirelessly to fill vacancies. Stay interviews are a practice that can help ensure long-term and newly hired employees remain in the organization.

Stay Interviews Defined

Stay interviews are informal discussions between leaders and employees to assess job satisfaction and identify what makes the organization a good place to work as well as opportunities for improvement in the work culture. These conversations provide an opportunity to improve relationships and build trust among employees. It’s important to note that stay interviews should be conducted primarily with employees the district would like to retain as opposed to those who have already decided to leave.

Benefits to conducting stay interviews include the following:

  • Shows value of employees’ thoughts and feelings
  • Identifies expectations
  • Opens lines of communication
  • Boosts collaboration
  • Results in collection of valuable information

Best results may occur by keeping stay interviews structured yet casual and conversational. This process also helps employees understand that leadership recognizes and appreciates their loyalty, cares about more than just job performance, and is open to making changes that would bring them more satisfaction.

Conducting Stay Interviews

There are various routes an organization can take to conduct stay interviews. They may be accomplished through a group or individual setting. Who conducts the stay interview also may vary. HR may facilitate stay interviews, but other organizational leaders or direct supervisors may conduct them as well. Employees may speak with individuals who are available according to an interview schedule or more informally during a walk-through.   

Regardless of how or who implements stay interviews, questions asked should be predetermined and developed to find out what employees like or would suggest for organizational improvement. Following are examples of questions to ask:

  • What do you most like about coming to work every day?
  • What part of your job do you wish you could change?
  • If you left this organization, what would you miss most?
  • How does the organization support your best work?
  • What additional resources could be given to help you improve your work?

When conducting stay interviews, it’s important to verbalize the purpose so the answers and information provided can guide future improvements. Creating a safe and comfortable environment will provide a positive experience for the interviewer and the employee resulting in the most helpful feedback. Information gathered can be used to increase the number of reasons employees choose to stay, minimize anything that frustrates them, and identify and address other major factors that trigger turnover.

After the conversation, the interviewer should express their gratitude for the conversation. Employees’ time is valuable, so showing each employee your appreciation for their participation is important. Sending an email “thank you” briefly identifying something specific mentioned also may benefit the process.

Finally, a positive way to validate participation is by making improvements soon after stay interviews are conducted. This will display the value of the process and potentially result in ways to retain employees with whom you’ve invested the most time and resources. Even low-cost changes could reaffirm an employee’s commitment and engagement.


Following are factors to consider when conducting stay interviews:

  • Separate stay interviews from employee performance reviews
  • Focus on an employee’s work experience and needs
  • Address positive aspects and areas for improvement for the position or work location and the organization as a whole
  • Communicate appreciation to employees who contributed to improvements
  • Don’t dismiss or minimize an employee’s thoughts or feelings
  • Keep the process simple


Stay interviews are addressed in the HR Library topic, Employee Engagement (member login required). The Employee Relations section also includes sample retention conversation prompts that may be tailored towards select employee groups to further guide conversations.

Employee opinion surveys also may serve as a tool to find out how employees feel about their jobs and working conditions and provide useful information regarding employee engagement, recruitment, and retention.   

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Karen Dooley
Karen Dooley
HR Services Assistant Director

Karen Dooley joined HR Services in 2016. She provides oversight to a team of consultants providing staffing services, HR reviews, and other projects. She provides training and assists school districts with their HR-related needs. Dooley is a seasoned administrator with more than 17 years of HR experience in Central Texas districts as a coordinator, director, and assistant superintendent. She also worked as an assistant principal, counselor, and teacher, and holds a superintendent certificate.

Dooley received her master’s degree from Prairie View A&M University and her bachelor’s degree from Texas State University.

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