Stay Interviews: A Simple and Low-Cost Way to Build Employee Engagement

Effective stay interview techniques can be easily trained and cost nothing to implement. They are a structured discussion between a manager and his/her employee.

They consist of three parts: a) an introduction, b) a set of questions on the reasons why one stays and engages and c) a set of questions on the reasons that might cause someone to disengage and leave.


  1. Approaching the employee – Approach the targeted employee during a lull period and use an introductory statement something along this line. “I want you to know that both I and the firm appreciate your commitment to the firm and the great work that you have been doing. If you have a few minutes, I would like to have an informal conversation with you to ensure that we fully understand the factors that make you loyal and that keep you here and any possible actions that we can take to bolster your job experience and to keep you happy.”
  2. Starting the interview – Start the interview with a simple introductory statement like the following. “Thanks for taking the time to have this discussion. As one of our key employees, I want to informally pose some simple questions that can help me to understand the factors that cause you to enjoy and stay in your current role. During the interview, I will also use a series of questions in order to identify any factor that could possibly frustrate you to the point where you might even begin to consider other job opportunities.”


  1. Tell me specifically, what factors cause you to enjoy your current job and work situation (including people, job, rewards, job content, coworkers, management etc.), and as a result, they contribute to your staying at our firm as long as you have? Help us identify the factors that make you more passionate, committed, and loyal to your team and the firm.
  2. If you have ever been asked by a close friend or have been contacted by an external recruiter, can you tell me what reasons you gave them for wanting to stay at our (your) firm?
  3. Do you feel that you are currently doing “the best work of your life?” Can you list for me the factors that could contribute to you “doing the best for your life?” (Note: this is the No. 1 key retention factor for top performers.)
  4. Do you feel that your work makes a difference in the company and that externally it has a noticeable impact on customers and the world? Do you also feel that your coworkers think that you make a difference? (Note: this is the No.2 key retention factor for top performers.)
  5. Do you feel “fully utilized” in your current role? If so, can you identify the factors that make you feel fully utilized? Are there additional things that we can do to more fully take advantage of your talents and interests?
  6. Do your colleagues and teammates listen to you and do they value your ideas, inputs, and decisions? How can that area be improved?
  7. If you “managed yourself,” what would you do differently (in relation to managing “you”), that I, as your current manager, don’t currently do?
  8. Can you make a list of the elements or motivation factors in your current role that you like best and that you would like “more of”?
    • What factors would you miss most if we transferred you to a completely different job?
    • What things do you really miss from your last job at the firm?
  9. Can you also make a list of the less-desirable elements or frustrations in your current role that you would like to do “less of”?
    • Are there any frustration factors that keep you up at night, that enter your mind while driving to work, or that cause you to dread having to come to work at all?
  10. If you were given the opportunity to redesign your current role, can you make a list of the key factors that you would include in your “dream job”?
  11. Can you help us understand your career progression expectations and let us know where you would like to be in the organization two years from now?
  12. Can you list for us the most challenging but exciting aspects of your current job situation?
    • Are there actions that we can take to further challenge you?
  13. Can you highlight any recent recognition and acknowledgment that you have received that increased your commitment and loyalty?
    • Are there actions that we can take to further recognize you?
  14. Can you highlight the recent exposure to executives and decision makers that you have experienced?
    • Are there ways that we could increase or improve that exposure?
  15. Can you highlight for me your positive experiences in the area of learning, development, and growth?
    • Are there ways where we could increase that growth?
    • Do you want to move into a leadership role, and if so, what are their expectations, their timetable, and their concerns?


Triggers are occurrences or events that driver loyal employees to at least begin considering looking for new job.

  1. If you were to ever begin to consider leaving … help me understand what kind of “triggers” or negative factors that might cause you to consider leaving?
    • Please include both job and company trigger factors.
  2. Think back to a time in the last 12 months when you have been at least slightly frustrated or anxious about your current role. Can you list for me the frustration factor or factors that most contributed to that anxiety?
    • Can you also help me understand what eventually happened to lower that frustration level?
  3. If you’ve had conversations with other employees who have considered leaving or who have actually left our firm, did any of the reasons that they provided for leaving cause you to at least partially nod in agreement?
    • If so, can you list those factors and tell me why they seemed to be at least partially justifiable as a reason for leaving to you?
  4. What are the prime factors that caused you to leave your last two jobs?
    • Are there factors from your previous jobs that you hope you will never have to experience again at our firm?

Remember that employee engagement is personal!

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