It’s 2 AM on a Saturday and you’re facing another sleepless night. Things with your company have been moving so fast lately that you feel like you’re losing your handle on it. Come to think of it, you have good reason to feel that way. Your team has gone from five to 20 people in the last year and your culture has morphed into something you barely recognize. And at this new scale, employee feedback isn’t happening as organically as it used to. It’s all starting to feel disconnected. 


If your company is in the process of scaling, or you’re preparing for rapid growth, asking your team two essential questions can help you be deliberate about your people and culture through the process. No one knows what makes your company a meaningful place to work more than your employees. As a result, these questions give a quick and accurate view on how people are feeling, your company’s competitive strengths, and what’s standing in the way of success. 


1) What’s the #1 reason you stay at this company?


Answers to this question reveal what people most value in the context of the rest of their lives. Perhaps it’s being on the ground floor of something truly innovative, or an exceptional team vibe. Or maybe working 100% remote allows them to get their kids off the bus after school. 


2) What would be the #1 thing that would motivate you to leave?

This question gets to the heart of people’s non-negotiables. The things that they love and won’t tolerate a change to, or the fundamental problems that need to be immediately addressed. It’s also a surefire way to learn if an employee doesn’t feel supported, or the company’s protracted growing pains are diminishing confidence, or if someone feels stuck in their job.


Why the questions work


They distill everything down to the essential truth.  Requiring people to pick their #1 reason filters out all the lesser factors that can often cloud your understanding of what’s most important.


They point to highly specific things that matter most to a great work experience. There’s no fluff to these questions, and responses tend to be equally direct. The result is a rich understanding of your people and your company. (Unless, of course, your team is afraid to tell you the truth).


They highlight the greatest threats to people staying and your company’s biggest vulnerabilities. You learn in clear terms what’s at risk if you remove or change their #1 thing. This input will help you plan for the future.   


In my experience, pointed questions lead to pointed answers.  You may be surprised by what actually drives and motivates your people. Above all, this knowledge will allow you to prioritize what’s “nice to have” versus non-negotiable for your culture.