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Want to keep valued employees? Conduct a stay interview

By Lynne Curry  bio

If you’ve ever been blindsided by a valuable employee’s resignation and conducted an exit interview, you may have asked the right questions six months too late.

Exit interviews detail why employees leave your organization. In contrast, stay interviews—rarely done—provide a valuable tool for retaining valued employees.

What’s a stay interview?

Stay interviews uncover what really matters for each key employee—such as a raise, dental as well as health benefits, decision-making autonomy, knowing their supervisor cares, challenging work or something you might not realize.

You may learn your employees are looking for opportunities to grow faster or beyond what they see as achievable within your company—when you have viable ideas for letting them gain additional skill and authority while remaining with your company.

Stay interview responses give managers the ability to address factors that significantly increase employee discretionary effort and retention, before the employees hit the exit ramp.

How to conduct a stay interview

Interested? You can start today, by calling in a consultant or handling the interviews yourself. If you conduct the interviews yourself, begin the interview by saying, “I want to talk with you today about the key reasons you stay with us, because we want our organization to have a great and satisfying work environment. My goal is to learn what I can do to make us an employer of choice for you in areas we can control.”

For best results, you need to ask easily answered questions on hard topics. Employees may not honestly answer “Have you ever thought about leaving the company?” for fear it may make them less dedicated or result in other ramifications. Instead try “If you won Publishers Clearing House and decided to leave us, what would you miss most and least?” or “If you can imagine your dream job, or your job here could be enhanced, what would you be doing?”

Some other helpful questions include:

  • What do you like best/least about your job?
  • What makes for a great day at work?
  • What is something new you want to learn this year?
  • Is there anything you’d like to change about your job or department?
  • What is one thing that would make your job more satisfying and rewarding?
  • What kind of recognition would be meaningful for you?
  • When you travel to work each day, what are you looking forward to?
  • How can I best support you?
  • How does working here compare to what you thought it would be like?
  • What leads you to stay with us?
  • Is there one person in the organization who has really been helpful to you of late (so we can thank them appropriately)?

Stay focused on your goal

Expect to spend 30 minutes on each stay interview, a minor investment given the results they produce.

During the interview really listen and don’t attempt to either guide the conversation toward what you want to hear or defend the status quo. Although you’ll want to follow up each interview with strategies that meet your employee’s needs, don’t turn the interview into a negotiating session. For best results, you’ll want to conduct the stay interview as a separate event. If you couple it with a performance or salary review, you’ll muddy the waters.

Be honest

What if you learn you can’t give an employee what the employee most desires? Be honest. Stay interviewees produce good results even when all you can do is demonstrate you care and will do what you can to explore options.

Lynne Curry, PhD, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” and “Solutions,” which has great articles on how to remember names & 60 real-life workplace dramas with practical solutions. Both have 4.8-star ratings on

Curry and her group regularly work with law firms and medical practices and hospitals, providing HR on-call, training, expert witness work, facilitation, strategic planning, investigation, mediation, and executive and professional coaching. You can reach her at or or via LinkedIn or Twitter @lynnecurry1.

The above information is shared by a guest contributor and does not necessarily reflect the views of Medical Office Manager.









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