Are Your Employees Secretly Looking for a New Job? 10 questions you need to ask before they leave

October 31, 2014

I received a panic phone call from a senior executive that I've just begun to work with. He was distraught because an individual that he deemed to have the most potential of all his senior staff had just given notice.  When I asked my client why the employee was leaving the company, he said it was due to money -- his company was just not paying enough. I then asked my client if he had any idea that the employee was looking for a new opportunity and had he any previous conversations in regards to money with this employee.  His answer was “no”. My client felt the employee was doing a great job and seemed happy.  I continued the conversation by asking a few questions about the employee and his career motivators and aspirations, my client could not answer any of the questions I asked.

During an exit interview with HR, the employee revealed that he was not leaving the organization because of money, he was leaving because there were not enough opportunities within the organization and he was looking for more career growth.  Furthermore, the employee was very surprised to find out he was considered a high potential. This was especially surprising because in the three years that he was with the organization, his boss had not had one career conversation with him.

We are all running at warp speed to keep up with our work, but if you value engagement and the retention of your top talent you need to invest the time and effort to get to know your employees. You need to know what motivates and inspires them to come to work every day, and what would make them leave your company. 

Here are 9 questions you can ask your employees during a formal or informal career conversation to gain a better understanding of their aspirations.

  1. We have a good opportunity for a career discussion today. How would you like to approach the discussion?
  2. What are you hoping to get out of it?
  3. What are your career goals as you see them right now?
  4. Let’s talk about your career so far.  What are your greatest career accomplishments? What helped you get there?
  5. What differentiates you from other employees?
  6. How do others see you?
  7. If you could enhance the nature of your current role, what would it look like?
  8. What gaps would you have to close to reach your short/long term career goals?
  9. What projects that you have worked on make you most proud?
  10. What type of projects would you not like to be involved with?
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