Worried about losing your most talented employees? According to The Wall Street Journal, you should be: "A strong economy gives workers to seek better positions and higher pay," the Journal reports. In fact, the U.S. Labor Department's data shows that 3.4 million workers quit their jobs in April (the month for which the most recent statistics are available). That number approached the peak for resignations in 2001.

And the Journal notes that "job-hopping is happening across industries, including retail, food service and construction, a sign of broad-based labor-marketing dynamism."

That's why you shouldn't wait to find out what your high-performing employees need in order to stay with your organization. The best way to do so? Interview them, advises Ashley Prisant Lesko, author of Go Beyond the Job Description: A 100-Day Action Plan for Optimizing Talents and Building Engagement (link).

(Full disclosure: I read this book in galley form and wrote an endorsement blurb for the author.)

"For managers, a key purpose of a one-on-one meeting is to learn more about your employees," writes Lesko. "Think of it this way: You're an investigator, and you're trying to uncover information that can lead to a treasure. Your people have the information. How do you find out what they need?"

The philosophy behind conducting an interview with current employees is what Lesko calls "talent engagement." The idea is to "maximize your employees' output by using both the stated requirements for the job and the talents, skills, and strengths not listed in the job description," writes Lesko.

Of course, you need to take action after you conduct the interview. But you don't have to solve every problem or remove every obstacle; the idea is to address the most pressing issues (and leverage the most promising opportunities.) By doing so, you not only benefit the organization--you also make the employee's role more meaningful, so that the team member is more fulfilled (and less likely to jump ship).

What are the best questions to ask your employee during the interview? Lesko used a Quora post by Rob Cahill, CEO/founder at Jhana, as a jumping-off point to create this list of 17 essential questions:

Talent Engagement

1. How are you currently using your skills and talents in this position?

2. If you could work on anything in the next quarter, what would it be? Why?

3. How can we help make what you do more satisfying?

4. At what point in the past month were you most frustrated with or discouraged by work? What can I do to help?

5. What sort of resources could you use to help make things more manageable?

6. What can I do to help you enjoy work more or remove roadblocks to progress?

7. In which areas would you like more or less guidance from me?

Job Engagement

8. On a scale of 1-10, how happy are you with your job? What makes you say that?

9. What skills, talents, and interests do you have to contribute to the project(s) you're currently working on? Why?

10. What are your most and least favorite areas about work right now?

11. What's working well for you in your current job that you want to leverage?

Career Engagement

12. Do you feel as if you're growing in your role? What are the drivers?

13. Think back through jobs that you've had; what are some of the work projects you're proudest of, and if given the chance, what would you like to do next?

14. Think about your career; what are two or three skills you'd like to learn on the job? 15. What other roles or positions could you see yourself in? Are they in this department, team, company?

16. If you had the chance to create your ideal position, what would it look like? How is it different from what you're doing now? What would you need to get there?

17. What goals at work would you like to accomplish in the next 6 to 12 months?

Of course, you'll select and customize questions for your situation. The point is to start a dialogue to find out how to help your team member succeed in his/her current role and develop in his/her career.

Published on: Jul 11, 2018