Shortly after I authored The Stay Interview, bloggers wrote their own versions of Stay Interview questions. Their clear message was that question development required no science. But the SI5, as we call the questions in our offices, had strict upbringing. Here’s why these five Stay Interview questions are the tested and proven formula for improving employee engagement and retention:

Q1. When you travel to work each day, what things do you look forward to?

The opening clause, “When you travel to work each day”, encourages the employee to imagine their daily commute to capture their everyday images in the here and now. Then asking them what they look forward to drives them to their positive images, what they actually like.

Q2. What are you learning here?

“Learning” in the present tense sends the compelling message that we want you to grow, to prosper for both yourself and our organization. Employees when answering then hear their own lists so they know they are developing and not standing still.

When we train managers to conduct Stay Interviews, we teach them that all career discussions are built around the word “skills” so probes might include these:

“What skills would you like to build?”
“What skills do you think are required for that position?”

Q3. Why do you stay here?

The goal here is for the employee to dig deeply to identify and then announce why she stays. Her initial response might be superficial…”I have to pay the bills”…but trained managers respond by saying, “Me too, but why do you really stay?”

The manager’s next job is to refrain from giving hints, and instead say, “Take a few moments. I really want to learn why you stay”.

The employee’s contemplation and ultimate disclosure drive an important point…that few employees bother to consider why they stay. And they ultimately remember their reasons once they discover them within themselves and announce those reasons to their manager.

These types of exchanges such as this one drive up trust, improve employee output and engagement, and ultimately improve employee retention.

Q4. When was the last time you thought about leaving our team? What prompted it?

This question rises above all subtleties and gets to the core retention issues…and yes, everyone considers leaving at one time or another. The probes matter for all questions but particularly here:

“How important is that issue to you today?”
“What’s the single most important thing I can do to make it better?”
“Can I count on you to come directly to me if you ever feel that way again?”
“Whose shoddy work causes you to get so far behind? Tell me specifically.”
“How often has that happened since last April?”

Q5. What can I do to make your experience at work better for you?

This question begs for feedback on the manager’s style so all who ask it should have seat belts buckled, and prepare to avoid being defensive. But more importantly, answers provide clues regarding how each manager should adapt their style to each employee. Probes might include:

“Do I tell you when you do something well? Or only when you do something ineffectively?”
“Am I with you enough? Or not enough? Or too much?”
“Are my instructions clear? Or might you not always understand what is expected?”
“Do I seem genuinely interested in your career here?”
“How do you like to be recognized? Privately? In public?”

The SI5 stand alone as powerful gatherers of the most important information to improve each employee’s engagement and retention. Managers who leverage these carefully-selected questions with strong probes, detailed notes, and deliberate next-step action-planning reach the holy grail of leadership…by building highly-skilled teams who give their best and stay.

Now is the right time to build retention skills for the rest of your career. Stay Interview Expert Certification online training at makes you the Stay Interview Expert in your organization. Enroll or test drive a free module today.