7 “stay-on interview” questions to gauge employee satisfaction


One of the most valuable things to come out of The Great Resignation was a refocusing on people. As leaders, we need to show up for our people every day. We need to understand their concerns. We should show our appreciation and help them feel valued. We must be present.

Stay interviews are a great tool to understand our people. Exit interviews help us find out why people leave. Stay interviews help us determine where people find value in the organization and why they may head for the door. They are an invaluable tool for implementing continuous improvement and showing people that their voice matters.

I admit that the name “stay in interview” is a bit wonky. If I heard him as a direct report, I might think, “Should I consider leaving?” Instead, frame the conversation like this: “I would like your perspective on a few important topics to help me serve you better. Lead by clarifying the benefit to the employee.

[ Also read 10 CIOs share advice on career development. ]

Honest feedback is essential for successful residency interviews. Create a safe space where people feel comfortable speaking their minds without fear of reprisal. Be prepared to be vulnerable. It’s hard to hear about areas where you’re not effective and where the organization falls short, but having those conversations is essential.

What to ask during a residency interview

Let’s look at seven powerful questions to get the most out of your residency interviews.

1. What talents do you have that are not used in your current role?

Even your star software developer doesn’t necessarily dream in code. People are dynamic. Everyone has interests that go beyond their core competence. Many like to push the limits of their comfort zone to develop new skills. This is how we grow. When people are underutilized, they may want to explore outside options that allow them to maximize their career development.

2. How would you like to be recognized?

During a recent recording, a team member said, “I love being recognized for what I do, but I never want to be called out for it in a company meeting.”

This interaction was a great reminder that people want recognition, but in their own way. Gary Chapman explains in his book, The 5 Love Languages, that we all need love, but each of us receives it differently based on our unique needs.

Explicitly ask people how they prefer to be recognized and embrace that. A revealing follow-up question: “Do you feel like we regularly show our appreciation for all the great things you do?”

3. Do you think we offer professional growth opportunities in the areas you want to develop?

At Improving, we offer a buffet of professional development options, from one-on-one coaching and certification study groups to leadership training and soft skills workshops. Some people take advantage of these offers; some don’t. Just because leaders see value in these efforts doesn’t mean everyone shares that view.

Always explore how your development offerings meet the needs of your staff. Look for the learning gaps your employees are hungry for and work to fill them.

[ Also read Hybrid work: 5 tips for prioritizing the employee experience ]

4. What does our organization do well?

A few months ago, I attended an internal management meeting where we evaluated our culture and initiatives. While I appreciate the feedback from our leadership team, the exercise ultimately felt hollow as we didn’t ask our most important stakeholders how they felt.

The opinions of your employees are the ones that matter, and this question asks that question. What do you do that resonates with your people and sets you apart? Why do these people stay while others have left? It pays to know where things are working well so you can build on them.

5. If you were a manager one day, what would you change?

It asks your collaborators to imagine a more perfect organization. What pain points would they focus on resolving?

Some will be obvious (pay raises, better health care), but others may be more minor things that don’t often show up on your radar. For the tougher questions, I find it helpful to lead with transparency and explain why this change is so difficult. For things that can be done, ask them to tell you how they see this change being implemented. Imagine the power of your employees seeing positive organizational change based on their feedback.

Imagine the power of your employees seeing positive organizational change based on their feedback.

6. What would you like me to do more or less of as the leader of your organization?

This asks your interviewer to rate you. How are you as a manager? Where are you missing the target? Where do they think you need to adjust your approach?

This is a vulnerable place and you should receive feedback appropriately. If you react defensively, you tarnish trust and your employee will likely go back to telling you what you want to hear. Don’t scare away the honesty you’re trying to bring out.

7. Move forward in your career three to five years. Where do you see yourself?

I would add: “It does not matter if we are not in this vision.

A few years ago, one of our collaborators mentioned during an exit interview that he was leaving us to go to a firm specializing in security. Although security is part of every project we deliver, our pipeline of pure security projects is not overflowing. We’re actively looking to shore up that side of the business through acquisitions, opening up the possibilities it’s been craving.

Would it have changed his mind if he had known? Maybe not. But sharing the roadmap of where we’re headed might have shown her that her dream was part of our future.

The key is to find ways to open up possibilities that people may not realize. (Granted, if he had said his dream was to start a goat farm, we couldn’t help it, but I’d be very curious to know what spurred this newly discovered passion.)

Stay interviews are useless without follow-up. The follow-up should start there by explaining why certain things are being done. These conversations should spark an exploration among leaders to determine what changes make sense. It is essential to let your contacts know that you will follow up with them and when. If you fail to follow through, your employees will not feel heard or valued.

The Great Resignation is underway. According The recent investigation by Willis Towers Watson, 53 percent of employees today are job seekers. As talk of the recession heats up, the reshuffling of jobs could give way to a greater desire for job security. Either way, it’s essential to focus on putting people first. Stay interviews should be a basic leadership tool to deepen your understanding and awareness of what is important to your staff.

[ Check out essential career advice from 37 award-winning CIOs! Get a variety of insights on leadership, strategy, and career development from IT executives at Mayo Clinic, Dow, Aflac, Liberty Mutual, Nordstrom, and more: Ebook: 37 award-winning CIOs share essential IT career advice. ]


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