The One Thing You Can Do to Keep Your Best Talent

Mar 27, 2014
7 Min Read

Get ready to say good-bye to some of your best talent this year.

According to new RainmakerThinking research, employees are unhappier than ever and Founder Bruce Tulgan believes that it could lead to a “sudden spike” in turnover as the job market improves.

In the words of Scooby Doo: Ruh-roh.

Specifically, the survey finds that 46% of employees report that in the last year they’ve felt “stuck” in their jobs and have an unfulfilled desire to head for the exit. In addition, 90% say they’re less committed, are less productive and are less willing to “go the extra mile” or “contribute their best ideas,” Tulgan says.

One of the biggest gripes by employees? Being required to do more work with less support and resources. They also complain about pay and benefits.

To make matters worse, the research finds that those polled are not considered the worst performers, which means that it’s not going to be the bottom-feeders who leave.

So, if you really don’t want to conduct exit interviews with your best performers in the near future, then it’s time to take action and start doing “stay” interviews.

A stay interview means that you sit down one-on-one with key employees and let them tell you what it will do to make them stay. In other words, a stay interview lets you find out what is going right and what is going wrong before you find out in an exit interview.

“Most employees are excited simply by the fact that the organization is concerned about their future and that their manager took the time to consult with them,” writes John Sullivan on

CIO Insight suggests that if you’re unsure of who should be given a stay interview, calculate “the estimated negative dollar business impact if they departed, along with the probability of them doing so in the next 12 months.” ()

Beverly Kaye, author of “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go,” suggests on Monster some stay interview questions that managers can ask employees:

 1. What about your job makes you want jump out of bed?

 2. What about your job makes you want to hit the snooze button?

 3. What are you passionate about?

 4. What’s your dream job?

 5. If you changed your role completely, what would you miss the most?

 6. If you won the lottery and didn’t have to work, what would you miss?

 7. What did you love in your last position that you’re not doing now?

 8. What makes for a great day at work?

 9. If you had a magic wand, what would be the one thing you would change about your work, your role and your responsibilities?

 10. What do you think about on your way to work?

 11. What’s bothering you most about your job? 

In addition, Sullivan advocates identifying possible “triggers” that might prompt an employee to leave. For example, ask an employee:

  1. If you ever decided to leave, what would be the negative “triggers” that would cause you to leave?
  2. In the last year, have you ever been frustrated or anxious about your current role? What contributed the most to that stress? How did you reduce your frustration?
  3. Thinking about those who have left, have any of their reasons made sense to you? Why?
  4.  What are the main reasons you left your last two jobs? Is there anything from those earlier experiences that you hope you will never have here?

Susan Heathfield, writing for, suggests that once you do stay interviews, then “employees will look for something to change as a result of their participation.”

“You need to be committed to making positive changes before conducting stay interviews. When you make changes, you need to inform employees that the changes are the result of their suggestions and responses in stay interviews,” she writes.

She also cautions not to make excuses to workers, “or becoming all defensive will also derail your process for understanding employee satisfaction and retention in your organization.”

“You may agree or disagree with the views expressed, but nonetheless, they are the current reality of the employees who are participating in the interviews,” she writes.

Tulgan says that his company’s research shows that employers need to actively “reenlist” their workers, and stop the “downward spiral."

“Help them get back into an upward spiral. There is no short-cut to that solution. It requires strong, highly-engaged leadership throughout the chain of command, from the top, all the way down to the front lines,” Tulgan says.

What are you doing to retain your best talent?

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