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Predict Turnover with 'Stay' Interviews

LAS VEGAS—Conducting “stay” interviews isn’t for the faint of heart, Richard Finnegan, author of Rethinking Retention in Good Times and Bad: Breakthrough Ideas for Keeping Your Best Workers (Davies-Black, 2010) and CEO of C-Suite Analytics in Orlando, Fla., warned HR professionals at his June 26, 2011, afternoon presentation, “Exit Interviews? Stay Interviews Work Better!” The presentation was given during the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) 63rd Annual Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas.

That’s because they can uncover employee and retention issues that HR might not even know about.

But that’s precisely the point, said Finnegan. You can’t solve problems that you don’t even know about so the rewards of doing these structured discussions between managers and employees make them worthwhile.

“One standard deviation improvement in engagement increases revenue per employee by $4,675,” he said.

During stay interviews, managers who receive training in listening and interview skills meet face to face with employees to ask, “Why do you stay?” “What can I do to make you stay longer?” and “How can I make your work better?”

Many companies don’t conduct stay interviews because they are awash in data from focus groups, employee surveys and exit interviews. But many of these exercises don’t ask employees directly why they stay. Exit interviews don’t work because often they include too many questions to make them effective, Finnegan said.

“You really just want to know why someone left,” he said. “And after they’re gone, you can’t do anything about it.”

He gave three examples of how stay interviews have been used to drive down turnover and keep employees engaged:

  • A Florida hospital reduced overall turnover by 37 percent and decreased turnover among nurses by 70 percent by implementing stay interviews.
  • A retirement community raised retention for its employees in their first 180 days by 100 percent by doing stay interviews.
  • A call center decreased turnover among call center employees by 20 percent.

Finnegan talked about one company that conducts stay interviews and uses a color-coded scorecard to predict retention.

Advanced Technology Systems in Peoria, Ill., develops its scorecard based on answers that employees give supervisors. Green means the employee is likely to stay, yellow means the employee is a retention risk, and red means the employee is unlikely to stay. The company then develops action plans for employees in the red and yellow categories.

Another book by Finnegan, The Power of Stay Interviews for Engagement and Retention, will be published by SHRM.

Desda Moss is managing editor of HR Magazine.


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