Management Matters – Why Stick Around?

Everyone seems to be talking about engagement and retention as competition for top talent heats up and the economy continues to improve. Who doesn’t want to hold on to their top performers?.

Organizations are challenged to keep the stars they have invested in. By the time a high performing employee hands in their notice, it’s all over but the farewell party.

Conducting ‘stay interviews’ is how you can learn firsthand about what motivates people to seek employment elsewhere. While it’s true that it may not keep them, it will provide useful information that can play a part in keeping others from following their lead. It will also give a manager, HR, and executive leadership insight into why someone looks to leave.

The goal is not to have a stay interview with someone after they hand in their notice. The conversations (yes - more than once) should take place periodically with all employees to prevent them from dreaming of and leaving for greener pastures.

These useful and open-ended questions can help you get to know your employee in a different way:

What would be the one thing that, if it changed in your current role, would make you consider looking for another position?

  • What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning?
  • What about your job makes you hit the snooze button?
  • If you were to win the lottery and resign, what would you miss the most?
  • If you had a magic wand, what would be the one thing you would change about this department?
  • If you had to go back to a position in your past and stay for an extended period of time, which one would it be and why?

These aren’t mean to be trick questions or scenarios that managers need to go out and address immediately. The intention is to open up lines of communication in a different vein and understand what motivates someone at work. And because motivational drivers change over time and can often depend on what is going on in a person’s life at a particular moment, this conversation is one where the answers to the questions can change over time.

Offering flex time or remote work may not be the carrot it once was. Perhaps tuition reimbursement or additional PTO now has more appeal than the opportunity to attend a conference. It may not be about money but about challenging work or more autonomy, or the need for a mentor. Or it may be about the money.

If you wait too long to have ‘stay interviews,’ they can become exit interviews. A boss’s timing can make all the difference.

Joni Daniels is Principal of Daniels & Associates, a management consulting practice that specializes in developing people in the areas of leadership and management, interpersonal effectiveness and efficiency, skill- building, and organizational development interventions. With over 30 years of experience, she is a sought after resource for Fortune 500 clients, professional organizations, higher education, media outlets and business publications. Joni can be reached at

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