If you're looking for a way to improve your company's culture and boost employee retention, start by conducting stay interviews with high-performing long-term employees. Stay interviews can provide unique insights into what people who excel in your company love about it, and what they'd like to see improve. The results can inform decisions about what aspects of the work environment appeal to people who are well-suited to work there, and what might need to change. To get great feedback, you'll need to ask the right questions.
What Excites You About Coming to Work?
Ask a question designed to find out what it is that your best long-term employees find exciting about coming to work. This should be a general question that relates not just to a particular project, but to how the individual feels about their day-to-day work. If "excites" is too strong of a word, tweak the question by inquiring about what they look forward to the most about their work.
What Do You Dread About Coming to Work?
It may seem counterintuitive to ask a negative question like this, but the goal of a stay interview is to get a clear picture of how employees feel about their experience with the company. If you're going to ask what gets them excited about their job, you should also ask them to share what they dread about their job. If the term "dread" is too strong, ask what they dislike the most, or what is the most demotivating aspect of their job.
What Would Have Helped You When You Were New?
Ask your top-performing employees to share what would have been helpful to them as new employees. This will help you identify how new hire orientation and onboarding should be improved. What you learn provides data for building a business case to improve how new employees are onboarded. You can reduce new hire turnover by giving people with the potential to excel at the company the opportunity to get acclimated quickly.
Do You Feel Recognized for Your Accomplishments?
Ask this as a yes or no question, then probe for more information. If employees say they feel recognized for their accomplishments, ask them to share details about how that recognition takes place, and if they feel it is sufficient. If they say they don't feel recognized, ask them to give an example of something they feel they should be recognized for, and what kind of recognition they feel would be appropriate.
What Would Make It Easier for You to Do Your Job?
This question can help you identify potential barriers to employee success. If your company has any processes or procedures in place that are unnecessarily rigid or that otherwise cause barriers to people being able to perform to the best of their ability, the way people respond to this question will reveal what they are. This question will also help you identify managers who are too hands-off or who micromanage too much.
What Would You Like to Be Different?
Ask employees what they would like to be different about their job. Keep the question very general rather than steering them toward a particular type of answer, so you find out what issue(s) they perceive to be the most pressing. Once they have answered, broaden the question by asking what they'd like to be different in the organization overall, beyond the scope of their particular job.
How Do You Describe Your Job to Friends and Family?
By asking employees to share the way they talk about their experience at the company with other people, this can give you a sense of the things about the work environment (good, bad, or ugly) that impact employees to the extent that they discuss it with others. If everything they say is positive or even neutral in tone, ask them what they say when they're venting after a bad day, so you get a sense of what things they complain about as well as what they like.
To What Extent Do You Feel Supported by Management?
This is a fairly open question, so you may find that employees ask for clarification. Ask them to simply share what comes to mind first; it's up to them if they want to focus on their direct supervisor or the overall management of the company. Whatever their answer, follow up with questions about whether the level of support they are given meets their needs and expectations or not. If it does not, ask what would have to happen to make them feel sufficiently supported by higher-ups.
What Do You Know About Advancement Within the Company?
Your goal with this question is to find out what they know about career progression within the company. Do they perceive that there are opportunities for current employees to advance? Do they know how to be considered for a promotion? Are they aware of others who have been promoted internally? Since people tend to want to work for companies that promote from within, even if they don't personally want to advance, this is important information to consider.
Discover Key Company Information
There's no way to find out what your best employees think about your company if you don't provide them with a forum to share that information. Ask questions like these in a one-on-one setting where team members know their responses won't be relayed directly to their manager. Assure them that the conversation in no way impacts how their performance will be assessed. Stay interviews are a powerful tool for finding out exactly what you need to learn to create a strong culture in which top performers will want to stay at your company. In other words, stay interviews help you discover how to improve employee retention.