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Let Your Keepers Know They're Keepers! The Top THREE "Stay" Questions to Ask a Top Performer

Updated: May 7

A happy HR manager smiles and offers a handshake

Losing valuable, high-potential employees can not only be painful, but costly in terms of both replacement costs and lost continuity and momentum of the work they were engaged in. But how costly is it, really?

It's so costly, that remaining employees may be less motivated and likely to leave as well, further compounding the costs.

It's so costly, in fact, that U.S. businesses lose over one trillion dollars per year, just on voluntary turnover alone.

Talk To Your Employees

The best approach is to get in front of the exit interview, meaning talk to your high potential, or HiPo, employees to gauge their level of satisfaction with the job and the organization, before they think to leave.

Typically, these discussions are one-on-one with a Human Resources representative, with the level of the HR representative matching the employee's job grade.

The conversation's purpose can range from expressing the organization's appreciation for the employee's contributions and desiring an honest conversation about their current experience, to discussing the employee's future within the company as part of succession planning. Both reasons convey a strong message to the employee: "You are valuable to us, and we envision a future for you here, hoping you see the same."

The Main "Stay" Question to Ask a Top Performer

There are many “stay” questions you could ask in a live conversation with a HiPo employee but here’s one that will get the conversation going and inform any follow-ups:

"Regarding your satisfaction with your role in this company, on a scale from 1-10 where one is not satisfied at all and 10 is highly satisfied, where are you?"

Depending on the number they select, their response will drive the next part of the conversation to find out why they responded the way that they did. Of course, you hope the responses will be an honest reflection of how they feel. Assuming that’s the case, scores of: 

  • 5 or lower: This person is probably looking for another job in another company. Time to put on your listening ears and get to the bottom of their issues and take action to address those things that the organization can do something about.

    • Start by saying, “That’s pretty low, can you give me specifics that I can work on for you?” Sort out the comments by those that are job-related, company culture, or personal if they will disclose work-life issues they are struggling with. 

  • 6-7: This person may be open to a better position if it comes along. There are likely one or two key issues here that should be fleshed out with a couple of probing questions.

    • Ask for what would bring their response up to a 10. Then break down the response into bite-size explanations for the low score and address each one separately.

    • If you can do some solutioning on the spot or even if you need to take away the concerns and follow up, ask something like, “If we were able to address these concerns, would your response be higher or is there something else you haven’t mentioned?”

  • 8-10: This person is pretty happy but if they don’t say “10–I love it here”, there is probably one issue that hasn’t been addressed to their satisfaction. Your job is to get to what that thing is–and keep in mind, that “thing” may change from year to year.

    • A good opener here is, what would it take for you to respond with a “10”? The answer to that will inevitably get right to the point that is bothering them and hopefully, it’s something the organization can respond to quickly to make sure this person won’t even talk to a head-hunter the next time they call. 

If you don't feel you understand the full picture, or need more details for any other reason, then you should move on to our top three stay questions to ask a top performer.

The Top Three "Stay" Questions to Ask a HiPo Employee

  1. "Do you receive adequate recognition?"

    1. This question addresses the fundamental need for recognition and appreciation of their contributions, which is essential for employee satisfaction and retention.

    2. No matter how much you’re paying this person, if they don’t feel appreciated, they’ll fall prey to the next recruiter who fawns all over them even if the opportunity is for the same money.

  2. "What do you look forward to when you start your work day?"

    1. Understanding what motivates and excites your employees about their work can help reinforce these aspects and ensure their job aligns with their interests and passions.

    2. This, of course, can be followed with the reverse –“What do you like least about your job?” 

  3. "Do you struggle with having a work-life balance?" 

    1. If the answer is yes, follow with “How can we help you with that?”

    2. Work-life balance is crucial for long-term employee well-being and performance. This question can uncover if there are areas that need adjustment to prevent burnout and ensure they feel supported both in and outside of work.

    3. And don’t assume that because a person is single, they have it all figured out. You may be surprised to learn that they may have an ailing pet at home that is concerning and time-consuming with vet visits, and dealing with the situation of uncomfortable symptoms that an ill pet may present. 

Have these conversations at least once a year and ensure they are followed by some specific action, if called for. Nothing is worse for a HiPo employee than to lodge a complaint or ask for something and not see it materialize into action or at least feedback. 

At PARiTA, we can break down in seconds where the key pain points are that cause attrition for certain groups, areas like compensation, promotions, culture, and more. For attrition itself, we can show you your organization’s “Attrition Profile” by geographic location right down to the department level, and by employee groups by gender, race, ethnicity, age, generation, veteran status, disability, and more.

Get a demo now and stem the tide going out your back door. 


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