Can ‘stay interviews’ help HR, managers build better relationships?

A record 4.4 million U.S. employees left their jobs in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Not surprisingly, the industries losing the most workers have been those most impacted by the pandemic, such as retail, leisure and hospitality, and accommodations and food service. Considering that an estimated 3% of the country’s employees have quit, some HR professionals believe there may be no better time than now to conduct so-called “stay interviews.”

Related: What ADP Research indicates is fueling the Great Resignation

Amy Zimmerman of Relay Payments

“Within the group of people I talk to, more and more are jumping on the bandwagon,” says Amy Zimmerman, chief people officer at Relay Payments, which works with carriers to streamline payments across the supply chain and logistics industry, and also co-founder of PeopleCo, which helps companies develop a high performing and engaged workforce.

Stay interviews help managers learn why employees stay at their job and, just as important, what would make them leave. In about a 20-minute conversation, managers can casually ask traditional, structured questions that provide insight into what employees like and dislike about their job or organization—ranging from their role and responsibilities to the organization’s people, policies or practices. Zimmerman says they are a valuable tool and easy to facilitate but using them requires that HR leaders be “intentional about the goal and committed to the outcome.”

Although stay interviews have been conducted for years, she says some managers still have never heard of them while others have done them without knowing it. She explains that stay interviews can also be supplemented with—but not replaced by—polling or engagement surveys.

Related: Is virtual reality HR’s solution to employee engagement, retention?

The biggest mistake HR professionals or managers can make—even bigger than never conducting stay interviews—is doing them but failing to act on employee feedback. That would waste everyone’s time, says Zimmerman, adding that by acting or pretending to care, they would lose credibility with their team.

She advises HR leaders to empower managers by training them on why stay interviews are important, explaining their overall purpose and defining how to conduct them effectively. Managers must be genuinely interested and actively listen.

Zimmerman offers several sample questions:

  • What do you look forward to when you come to work every day?
  • What would make your job more satisfying?
  • What talents do you currently possess that aren’t being used in your current role?

“Stay interviews are a huge opportunity to engage with your folks and show them that you care,” Zimmerman says. “Ultimately, it’s about making sure that your team members understand the value proposition and the impact they can have and your investment in building their career. Stay interviews provide an incredible opportunity to motivate, engage and ultimately retain team members who might have been otherwise checking out.”

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Carol Patton
Carol Patton is a contributing editor for HRE who also writes HR articles and columns for business and education magazines. She can be reached at