Stay Interview: What is it and Why it Works for Retention

More stay interviews lead to less exit interviews. Stick to these tips to make sure yours produce actionable feedback.

February 6, 2023
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There are plenty of tools at your disposal when it comes to solving the employee retention challenge

But one the most underutilized is stay interviews, with just 28% of organizations conducting them.

Here’s everything you need to know to get the most from this often overlooked tool for fixing a high staff turnover.  

What is a stay interview?

A stay interview is a one-to-one interview you conduct with a top performing employee to find out what engages them about their work – and to get an idea about what might make them jump ship.

While it’s the close cousin of the tried-and-tested exit interview, the purpose of a stay interview isn't to convince an outgoing employee not to leave. Instead, they’re for getting honest feedback from your top employees on what you’re doing right – and what you're not doing so well – so you can improve things.

The benefits of stay interviews 

Stay interviews come with a whole host of research-backed benefits. Start conducting them with your best employees and they’ll help you:

Boost employee retention

Increasing employee retention is top of mind for most businesses in 2023. And stay interviews are a proven way to reduce turnover rates.

In fact, nearly 2 in 5 job leavers who didn’t have a stay interview say it would have made an impact on whether or not they left. 

Build a strong company culture 

A surefire way to have your most talented teammates heading for the exit is to leave them uncomfortable opening up about how they honestly feel about their work. 

One of the big reasons stay interviews are so effective at retaining your top staff is that they give your people a voice. In fact, 76% of workers that have had a stay interview say their manager fostered an environment where they could express feelings or frustrations, compared to just 47% in workplaces without them.

Keep recruitment costs down

Replacing outgoing employees is expensive business.

Firstly, the direct cost of replacing an outgoing employee has been estimated at 20% of their salary. Factor indirect costs like lost productivity, the effect on team morale, and the time it will take their replacement to get up to speed into that and you might dread to think how much it will cost to replace each outgoing member of staff.

The kicker? 52% of voluntarily departing employees say their manager or organization could have done something to prevent them from leaving their job.

Conducting stay interviews and acting on the feedback you get from them is an incredibly effective way of holding on to your top employees. That makes it one of the most cost-effective retention strategies at your disposal when you consider the amount it saves you in recruitment costs. 

Get the bigger picture

Because your leaders are removed from your business’s day-to-day operations, they only get an insight into a sliver of its problems. In fact, it’s been estimated that the C-suite is only aware of 4% of all their business’s problems.

But between them, your front-line staff are collectively aware of 100% of your company’s problems. They’re the ones dealing with them every day, after all. 

Stay interviews will go a long way to revealing that hidden 96% of issues to your leaders. And once you know what headaches your people are dealing with, you can address them. 

Boost employee engagement

74% of staff who feel listened to by their employer are more engaged at work and effective in their role. 

Which is why complementing your engagement surveys with stay interviews is like throwing rocket fuel on your engagement levels.

Plus, while there are certainly differences between engagement and retention, they’re closely tied. Boosting one tends to boost the other.

Stay interview best practices

Not all stay interviews are created equal. Stick to these tips to make sure yours have the biggest impact on your retention rates:

Cultivate an honest and open company culture

The first step to effective stay interviews starts long before you start scheduling them with your teammates. 

Because the truth is: your employees will only open up about how they honestly feel about their job if you put the effort into cultivating a company culture that leaves them feeling comfortable doing so. 

If you feel like your employees are guarded during their stay interviews then there’s no overnight fix. You’re going to have to go back to the drawing board with your company culture.

Don’t turn it into a performance review

A stay interview isn’t about how well your employee is doing – it’s about how well your organization is doing. So, don’t fall into the trap of turning your stay interviews into performance reviews – leave it for when annual reviews roll around.

Give employees time to prepare

Putting what you like and don’t like about your job into words often requires a bit of introspection. Which is why you’ll get the most actionable feedback from your employees if you let them know what questions you’re going to be asking them in advance.  

Follow up on the issues that get flagged

Ask your team members to take a leap of faith and share their honest thoughts with you then fail to act on their feedback and you could seriously damage the trust they have in you.

On the other hand, if your employees see you’re willing to listen to them and fix the problems they flag, they’re a lot more likely to open up about more problems – and encourage their teammates to do the same. That helps kick off a virtuous cycle that will ultimately lead to much higher employee engagement and retention rates

5 questions you should ask in every stay interview

These questions will help you quickly paint a picture of the things an employee likes and doesn’t like about their job:

What do you like about your job?

Asking this directly will help you get straight into what they enjoy about working for your company. Asking follow-up questions about their responses can help you dig deeper into the specifics for even more actionable feedback. 

What are you learning here?

If people don’t feel like they're growing in their job and moving towards a promotion (no matter how far down the line), they’re not likely to stick around for very long. In fact, 41% of people leave jobs because of the lack of career progression opportunities.

Why do you stay here?

Sure, we all need to pay the bills. But there are plenty of places your top performers could make ends meet. Asking them to reflect on why they choose to work for your company specifically will give you insights into what aspects of your company culture you should be doubling down on.

When was the last time you thought about leaving our team? What prompted it?

The kind of employees you want to keep on your payroll are going to be ambitious. So, it’s only natural that they’ll think about leaving every now and then. You can get a sense of what might tempt them away from your organization – or drive them out of it – if you get their candid answers to this question. 

What can I do to make your experience at work better for you?

Asking your employees a broad question like this will give them the chance to tell you what they want from their role they’re not getting, what they get frustrated by, and what they want to see more of. And that can be invaluable information when it comes to reducing your turnover.

The final word

The bottom line is: more stay interviews lead to less exit interviews. Stick to the tips we’ve laid out here to make sure yours produce as much actionable feedback as possible.

Browse our Free Employee Recognition Guide

Get the foundational knowledge on creating an employee recognition program that boosts employee engagement and helps them feel valued.

Explore Guide

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Assembly SOC 2 compliant?

Yes, at Assembly, security is a top priority. Each quarter, we have ongoing security work that is everyone’s responsibility. While we maintain a strong security posture, it was important for us to prove to our customers that we do everything we claim to do. This led us to pursue a SOC 2 Type II report that would provide evidence of our compliance with industry gold-standard security practice.

What's the ROI for employee recognition?

There is study after study showing that employee recognition leads to increased engagement. This in return creates an environment where employees are happier and more motivated which increase productivity and reduces voluntary turnover significantly. In order to filled critical roles, companies tend to spend nearly twice the value of an annual salary. Assembly is an investment in your employees that supports your bottom line.

Does Assembly offer longer-term contracts?

Yes, we will offer contracts for companies with longer-term agreements to help larger customers have more certainty around future costs.

The minimum agreement term is a 12-month subscription.

Does Assembly offer onboarding support?

We do and for FREE! Any new customer needing further support to get started with Assembly to ensure you're set up for success can request custom onboarding support. Improving your employee experience is about much more than just using our amazing software; it’s about transforming your business to create a workplace that people love. That’s much easier to do with the personal support and advice from our passionate people experts.

Is there a free version of Assembly?

Yes. We offer a completely free plan for up to 50 team members. This plan is intended for teams or organizations that are looking to get started with an employee engagement tool. Keep in mind, this plan is limited in features.

All customers can open an Assembly account for free and get started without a credit card. Then you can change plans as necessary.

How much do rewards cost?

At the time of redemption (when your employees exchange their points for a paid reward) you'll pay face value. If a reward is a $10 Amazon gift card, your cost will be $10. All paid rewards are billed for on a monthly basis.

The good news is that you don't have to pay for rewards upfront because we only charge you when points are redeemed, not when they're earned.

Does Assembly offer discounts?

We offer discounts or educational or charitable organizations. In order to secure a discount, you'll first need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

For all other organizations, we are willing to consider longer-term agreements in exchange for discounts. To set up annual plans or longer, you will need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

How do I cancel my plan if needed?

If you're on a month to month plan, you can go here and cancel anytime. If you're having concerns or need help setting up your account for success, you can always book a demo with a customer support specialist.

If you're on a longer-term custom plan, you'll need to reach out to your customer support specialist to cancel your account or email us at

What customizations are available?

Great question! You can customize your core values to match your organization's to boost and track alignment. You can change your currency from the 🏆 emoji (our default) to any emoji of your choice. You can swap our logo for your own. You can also set up company culture rewards such as, "Lunch with the CEO," "Buy a book on us," and so much more!

Who can give or receive recognition?

While we recommend a peer to peer set up where anyone in your organization can give or receive recognition, you can set up Assembly however you want. If you need to limit the people who can give or receive recognition, that's perfectly fine and can be done from your Admin, here.

What integrations are available?

Assembly connects to the tools your employees use every day to offer an easy, seamless experience with minimal change management.  

Assembly has integrations with HCM/HRIS systems like ADP, Google, Office 365, and Slack. We also integrate with communication tools like Slack and Teams so you and your employees can access Assembly wherever they work now.

What's your average adoption rate?

That depends on the company's permissions set up. That said, over 90% of the employees on Assembly's platform are recognized on a monthly basis. That means nearly every employee across all of our customers are receiving regular recognition from their peers, managers, or leadership. We're extremely proud of this.

Must rewards be set up to use Assembly?

They are not required. You can use Assembly without having rewards set up. However, we don't recommend it if you intend to have a high adoption and usage rate. You can always keep the costs down by offering internal culture rewards that are fulfilled by you internally.

Are points required to use Assembly?

No, you can remove allowances from anyone or everyone. It's up to you but we do recommend using points whether they're worth a real dollar value or not. Companies that use points have a much higher engagement rate even if those points don't exchange for real dollars.

Could find the answer you are looking for?

Please schedule time with an expert and we will help you to get all your questions answered