Improving Employee Retention with ‘Stay Interviews’


To improve your chances of keeping your top performers, ask them exit-interview type questions before they’ve made up their mind to leave, says GattiHR. Here are five key questions to address when putting together your stay interview tool kit.

April 19, 2022 – Typically when an employee leaves a company exit interviews are conducted with questions being asked such as: What did you like most about your job? What did you like least? Do you think your manager gave you the tools you needed to succeed? How did your role change and evolve? Was your work and accomplishments regularly recognized?

They’re questions asked at the wrong time, according to a recent article from GattiHR. The firm says that nothing can be done to change the result once they’re asked—the employee is already on their way out. So, when is the right time to ask these questions? “When the employee is still an employee,” said J.L. Baker, CEO at GattiHR.

“There’s a way for employers to keep more of their prized employees,” said Mr. Baker. “The solution: The stay interview template. Asking the right stay interview questions can quickly turn the Great Resignation into the Great Retention for your clients.”

Mr. Baker says to think of stay interviews as exit interviews for employees who haven’t handed in their two weeks’ notice. With the right questions, they won’t do so for a long time to come. Here are five questions Mr. Baker suggests you ask before assembling your best stay interview tool kit.

What are the Benefits of Stay Interviews?

Stay interview questions allow the best human resources leaders and management to understand what employees like about the organization—and what sorely needs improvement, according to Mr. Baker. “Given the labor shortage and the substantial number of positions lingering unfilled week after week, your employees’ happiness and engagement should be top of mind,” he said. “When conducted properly, stay interviews promote trust and foster employee loyalty.”

Related: Hiring Top Talent in Unprecedented Times

In addition to allowing management to show they’re invested in the employee and appreciate their contributions, stay interviews also enable management to address under-the-radar issues before they become glaring red flags. “Candid responses to stay interview questions allows leadership to show they can and will act when trusted with sensitive information about critical issues,” said Mr. Baker. “When it comes to performing stay interviews, it’s all about curating the right culture, which is one of the essential things current and potential employees are considering in greater depths. Stay interviews allow leadership to gauge the company culture and check its tempo,” he said. “Are employees engaged? Is the current culture an attractive one, inside and out?”


J.L. Baker joined GattiHR in 2016 and was promoted to the role of CEO earlier this year. He oversees the continued growth, evolution and success of GattiHR, its affiliates and businesses. He is responsible for corporate decision making, managing the overall operations and resources as well as driving the service-oriented, client-centric tone, vision and culture of the organization. Mr. Baker combines over 15 years of experience in both Fortune 300 corporate HR leadership and top-five retained executive search. Having worked with hundreds of clients in a variety of consulting capacities, he has built a reputation for developing strong trusted partnerships. He has fostered this approach across the firm, enabling the GattiHR team to provide high levels of consultation and care to clients with a focus on quality, expertise, partnership, and speed.


Creating a cadence for stay interviews promotes a healthy communication channel between management and employees and, therefore, better business. “Once the trust is established and recognized, employees are more likely to come to leadership with not only concerns, but with ways to improve the culture and business,” said Mr. Baker. “This results in better retention of your best staff and increases in business and efficiencies because the employee is more invested in the company.”

What Are the 9 Best Stay Interview Questions to Ask?

Encouraging your best employees to stick around long term is a significant factor for long-term success. “But unfortunately, most companies don’t worry about whether their top performers have a wandering eye until they’ve presented their letter of resignation,” said Mr. Baker. “Asking stay interview questions can provide your organization with invaluable insights into improving its retention rates. “You can also learn more about what inspires your best workers and replicate those efforts to recruit and hire similar high-achieving workers.”

Every stay interview template should include the following nine questions, Mr. Baker says:

  • What do you like most about your position and our organization?
  • What can we improve on?
  • What are some of the reasons why you work here?
  • What do you like the least about your current role?
  • If you could change something about your current role, what would it be?
  • If someone told you they were thinking about applying for a job here, what would you say to them?
  • How do you like to be recognized for the work you do?
  • What training or development would you like to receive?
  • What might tempt you to leave?

“These questions will help you source, hire, and hold on to the talent you need to make your company more profitable—before a competitor snatches them from under you,” said Mr. Barker.

What Should You Do with Feedback from Stay Interviews?

Feedback should be anonymous and shared with HR management to drive change. To do this, Mr. Baker suggests scheduling stay interviews ahead of time—not as a surprise “can I see you in my office?”

Furthermore, you should conduct stay interviews in a quiet and confidential setting—one that’s more informal than your traditional boardroom. “The purpose of the meeting and its goals should be shared with the employee before the meeting, which allows the employee to give some consideration as to what they want to share and to put the employee at ease,” said Mr. Baker. “Make sure no one thinks they’re in trouble and that the data and information shared will be used constructively.”

Who Should Replies Be Shared With?

Everyone in the organization can drive change. That means, in some organizations, “some information should be shared with the whole company,” Mr. Baker said. “But that’s not the case in every instance. Replies should be shared with upper management and/or HR, depending on the content,” he said. “The goal of improving the culture and employee experience should always be taken into consideration. That means feedback should never be shared with those who might be the subject of negative feedback, those who could break confidentiality, or those who are not in a position to be active in making a necessary change.”

When Should Stay Interviews Be Conducted—and How Often?

After one year, an employee—especially executives—should understand a company’s structure, values, strengths, and weaknesses, according to Mr. Baker. “Therefore, stay interviews should be conducted after one year with the company, or during any significant change within the organization,” he said. “That includes following the departure of a department head, manager, significant leadership, or even close coworker. I would recommend a stay interview each year, though not in conjunction with any type of performance or compensation review.”

Keep them separate. “It’s important to be proactive, but also not repetitive,” Mr. Baker said. “Make the stay interview a regular part of the employee experience, not the uh-oh, end-of-year dread that performance evaluations often are. They’ll appreciate it. So will your company and your HR department, which extended internal and perhaps external resources to find you the best hire. Take the initiative now to ensure you keep your top employees from walking off the job for years to come.”

GattiHR provides executive search, workforce analytics and HR tech solutions. The firm has offices in Boston, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Denver, Cleveland and Philadelphia. GattiHR’s retained search practice focuses across industries and has deep expertise in human resources, sales, marketing, technology and operational executives. In addition, the GattiHR Industrial Brand provides retained search for manufacturing and digital supply chain executives. In workforce analytics, the firm builds innovative, subscription-based solutions for climate assessment, employer branding, incentive design, and talent management.

Related: Retaining Your Employees During the Great Resignation

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media



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