Unlocking Employee Retention: The Power Of Stay Interviews

Even a cursory glance at Canadian demographics demonstrates why employee retention is a critical concern for any small business. Despite immigration and the rise of technological solutions (e.g., AI), we’re still looking at a shortage of talent as the boomers age out. Let’s not exacerbate the issue with the self-inflicted wounds of unhappy staff leaving early. Losing talented employees can be costly and disruptive. One valuable tool in retaining your best team members is the “stay interview.”

What Is a Stay Interview?

A stay interview is a structured conversation between a manager and an employee designed to explore the employee’s job satisfaction, motivations, and reasons for staying with the company. Unlike traditional exit interviews conducted when an employee leaves, stay interviews are proactive and aim to uncover and address issues before they lead to turnover.

Why Conduct Stay Interviews?

The primary purpose of a stay interview is to keep valuable employees. By understanding their needs, concerns, and motivations, managers can take proactive steps to maintain engagement and commitment. But that’s not all. Stay interviews serve as early warning systems. They allow managers to identify problems or dissatisfaction that, if left unaddressed, could lead to the employee leaving the company.

By engaging in meaningful conversations about an employee’s role and career aspirations managers can boost their morale and job satisfaction. It shows that the company values their input and is committed to their growth. Finally, they help to avoid a common mistake of managers. Instead of assuming that all employees are motivated by the same things, the stay interview provides insights into what motivates each individual employee. Armed with this information, managers can tailor retention strategies that align with each employee’s unique preferences and career goals.

Consequences of Not Conducting Stay Interviews

Many of the benefits of stay interviews can be achieved by regularly scheduled, rarely missed one-on-one meetings between an employee and their manager. Unfortunately, many managers have not been trained in one-on-ones and may have decided they don’t have time for them. Fortunately for the company, anyone can conduct a stay interview. Failing to conduct stay interviews can have significant consequences for a small business. Without proactive efforts to retain employees, a business may experience higher turnover rates, leading to increased recruitment and training costs, not to mention all of the extra time the manager must now spend training a replacement! Losing experienced employees also means losing valuable institutional knowledge, which can hinder the organization’s performance and growth. When employees feel unheard or undervalued, their morale can decline, impacting overall workplace culture and productivity. Ultimately, higher turnover rates can harm a company’s reputation, making it less attractive to potential hires and customers.

Suggested Questions for Stay Interviews

During a stay interview, asking the right questions is crucial to gaining meaningful insights. Here are some suggested questions to consider:

  1. What do you enjoy most about your current role?
    • This question helps identify what aspects of the job bring the employee satisfaction.
  2. What aspects of your job do you find most challenging?
    • Understanding challenges can lead to finding solutions or making necessary adjustments.
  3. What are your long-term career goals, and how can we support your growth within the company?
    • This question demonstrates the company’s commitment to the employee’s professional development.
  4. Are there any changes or improvements you’d like to see in your role or the workplace?
    • Encouraging employees to share their ideas for improvement can lead to positive changes.
  5. What motivates you to stay with the company?
    • Understanding what keeps employees committed can help tailor retention strategies.
  6. Do you feel your work is adequately recognized and appreciated?
    • Recognition and appreciation play a significant role in job satisfaction.
  7. Are there any factors that might make you consider leaving the company in the future?
    • This question can uncover potential retention risks and allow for proactive solutions.
  8. What additional support or resources do you need to excel in your role?
    • Ensuring employees have the necessary tools and support for success is vital.
  9. Is there anything else you’d like to discuss or share about your experience with the company?
    • This open-ended question encourages employees to express any concerns or ideas they may have.


There is one question I ask more than any other when I’m coaching people: “Have you to talked to them about it directly?”

Keeping your highly trained workforce working for you, at least in some capacity, should be a strategic initiative in every organization. With Canadian demographics against us it might be time to talk to your people. By regularly conducting stay interviews and asking the right questions, managers can demonstrate their commitment to employee satisfaction and growth, ultimately reducing turnover, boosting morale, and contributing to the company’s success. Investing time and effort in stay interviews is an investment in your employees and the future of your small business.

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Written By:
Tara Landes

Tara Landes is the Founder and President of Bellrock. She has spent over 20 years consulting and training in small to medium-sized enterprises. A sought-after speaker on a wide range of business topics, Tara has delivered workshops and seminars at conferences and industry associations across Canada. Tara obtained a BA (Honours) in Political Science from the University of Western Ontario (UWO) and earned an MBA from UWO's Richard Ivey School of Business.

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