The "stay interview" is here to stay. If you're new to the idea, stay interviews, unlike the exit interview, are based on honest two-way conversations between manager and employee, where each side gets to listen, ask questions, and agree to follow up on ideas and action plans.

The real difference just might save your best people from abandoning ship. Stay interviews are intentionally used to get fresh insight into improving the work environment to retain those valued employees today -- not after they have emotionally checked out and stopped caring.

Its real impact is in the trust that it builds before the tide turns. Leaders who care enough to make a difference in the lives of people will ask the right questions by getting a feel for what's working and not working for them. And then doing something about it.

The right questions to ask

To keep the process simple and informal, here are five questions that I recommend leaders and managers ask to ensure winning back those frustrated and disengaged employees critical to business success.

  • "What do you like about your job?" Use this question to set the tone and to start off on a positive note. It helps a leader clue into the parts of the job that the employee wishes to experience more of.
  • "Describe a good day of work you had recently." Tap into their memories to get specific examples and storytelling of good experiences they've had in order to replicate the experience so that every day looks more like it.​
  • "What does your dream job look like?" Leave this question intentionally broad to hear what's most meaningful to the employee. If they allude to not having enough flexibility or resources for mental health, take note to inspect your company's work-life blend and whether their needs are met during the pandemic. 
  • "What do you like or not like about the professional development opportunities available to you?" This question is critical to ensure employees aren't becoming stagnant in their positions, and that there are many avenues for learning, growth, and increased responsibility. Fact is, one of the primary reasons for employee turnover is a lack of investment in their career development.
  • "Do you feel your skills are being utilized to the fullest?" Imagine discovering that your employee has skills you never knew about. By asking this question, the employee wins by leveraging personal strengths and gifts that will give them greater purpose in their work. You, the leader, win by offering new opportunities to tap into those strengths, which will benefit the company, project, or team.