Ed Wonsek

'Stay interviews': the trend businesses across the country are using to replace exit interviews. Instead of waiting for valued employees to provide feedback when they're emotionally disconnected and stopped caring, 'stay interviews' give managers fresh insight into improving the work environment and help retain employees.

Webroot Software, a 400-employee internet security company, implemented stay interviews right after a reduction in their workforce. Their HR Director, Melanie Williams, went on to say, "the information collected by stay interviews is more actionable than secondary source information because it's specific and forward-facing."

The stay interview builds trust with employees; they feel valued that leaders think they are important enough to understand what's working and what isn't. The key is to make stay interview questions simple and informal. Here are five "must asks" to ensure winning back unhappy employees who are key to your operation's success.

1. "What do you like about your job?"
This question sets a positive tone to assess their work satisfaction and helps a manager clue in to what parts of the job employees like and want to experience more of.

2. "Describe a good day of work you had recently?"
Tap into their memory to extract clear and specific examples of positive experiences they've had. Leaders should be asking this question to learn everything they can about replicating the experience so that every day looks more like it.

3. "Do you feel your skills are being utilized to the fullest?"
Best-case scenario here is discovering that the employee has skills the company or leader never knew about, which is a win-win: The employee wins by using personal strengths that raises personal motivation and engagement; the leader wins by offering new opportunities to tap into those strengths, which releases discretionary effort that will benefit the company, project, or team.

4. "Do you feel you get properly recognized for doing good work?"
A leader will gauge frustration levels by courageously asking this question and openly accepting the response to brainstorm solutions together. As Gallup has observed in their extensive research, praise and recognition for accomplishments have been repeatedly linked to higher employee retention. How regular are we talking? Praise should be given once per week.

5. "Do you feel like you are treated with respect?"
Leaders should ask this question to determine the health of the team. Is there blame traveling in different directions, and are people pointing fingers at each other? Are there silos, heavy politics, stonewalling, or people being thrown under the bus? These toxic behaviors suggest a total lack of mutual respect as a cultural trait. Studies show respect is a key driver in overall employee engagement, and its absence as a contributor to employees leaving.

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