9 Questions You Must Ask Your Employees Once a Month If You Want Them to Stick Around

Aug 15, 2022

Don’t underestimate the power of regular one-on-ones with employees, a pair of CEOs remind leaders.

The media always craves a shiny new thing, so many pundits have moved on from talking about the Great Resignation to chattering about a whole new selection of Greats – the Great Regret, the Great Renegotiation, the Great Reshuffle. But don’t be fooled. Even with recession fears at fever pitch, unemployment is at record lows in some states and employees are still quitting in droves.

Basically, if you’re a business owner, you really don’t want to have to have to hire in this environment if at all possible. So how do you ensure that your current employees will stick around?

Don’t neglect the basics.

That is, of course, a million-dollar question, and experts of all stripes have offered advice. Pay bumps and wholesale redesigns of your hybrid work setup may be effective, but don’t neglect the unsexy basics. As Claire Lew, CEO of collaboration tool maker Know Your Team, points out, simply talking to your team one-on-one regularly about their experiences and aspirations is a powerful way to drive retention.

“Sure, a survey or two can be helpful for giving data points of general sentiments–but when we sit down in-person or in front of a video call, face-to-face with our team members, we capture the nuance for what is encouraging that specific person to stay. Rather than broad generalizations of our own projected assumptions, a conversation shines a light on what we can do for each particular person we want to stay. Only then can we understand exactly what steps to take,” she writes on the company blog.

So what should you be asking your people when you corral them for that monthly check-in? Lew helpfully offers nine question suggestions:

  1. In the past few months, when have you felt most motivated or energized in your work (if at all)?
  2. Is it clear why the work you do matters to the organization?
  3. Which of your skills do you feel is not being used in your current role?
  4. Is there any part of the team you wish you got to interact with more?
  5. How do you feel about the current level of social interaction across the team?
  6. How do you prefer to be recognized for work well done?
  7. Is there any aspect of the organization that you wish you knew more about?
  8. What’s felt confusing or frustrating for you lately?
  9. To what degree would you say the vision of the organization is clear?

One-on-ones aren’t some newfangled management innovation. Every leader knows they should talk to their people. But when things are busy and chaotic (and when are they not in entrepreneurship?), it’s too easy to neglect this leadership fundamental.

A conversation is a surprisingly powerful retention tool

Research suggests Lew is right in warning that not talking to your people about how they’re doing and where they’re headed professionally will cost you good employees. A recent survey by people management platform Lattice found that nearly 43 percent of workers felt their career had slowed or stalled. Simply talking to your employees about paths for career progression and how your company can help them reach their goals can have a massive impact on employees’ willingness to stick around, according to Lattice CEO Jack Altman.

“The best way to ensure employees can see the road ahead is through effective and continuous communication. Encouraging managers to regularly sit down with their teams to discuss personal growth and development plans is pivotal,” he commented.

Both these CEOs have the same simple but useful message for managers – don’t neglect the basics, especially right now. If you want your people to stick around, you need to be having substantive, thoughtful one-on-one conversations with them at least every month. Lew’s nine questions are a great place to start.

By Jessica Stillman