Questions Bosses Should Always Ask
Engaging with your employees is important. But what do you ask them?
Sure, you might understand the importance of communicating with your employees. That doesn’t mean you know what to ask them.
Knowing the questions to ask your employees will provide you with vital information about your team, your organization and how it functions. That, in turn, can help you to improve your organization and its operations.
Here’s what to ask your employees — and what to ask yourself.
Get Ground-Level Insight
Every employee has at least one pet peeve about their job. And this likely revolves around some process that irritates them.
The process is likely, according to your employee, done inefficiently or could be improved in some way.
The thing to remember is that you have a bird’s eye view of the process, whereas they’re down in the trenches doing it every day. You might have reasons why the process is executed in the current manner, but they can provide ground-level insight into how processes can be improved.
Improve Efficiency and Productivity
This question can often be related to the first. And it’s worth asking, especially when you onboard new employees.
One employee’s efficient process might not work for another employee. Some employees like a lot of direction and validation. Others just want to be pointed in the right direction and left to do their own thing.
It can be challenging for a lot of managers to adapt processes to individual employee tastes, but finding the right balance can improve overall efficiency and productivity. Happy employees are more productive than unhappy ones, not to mention more likely to stick around.
Solicit Outside-of-the-Box Ideas
Nearly every employee has at least fantasized about owning the business. In doing so, they probably have one pet idea about what they would do to make the business better.
That might be a new product or service, expanding into a new market, or something more mundane like finally phasing out paper in favor of a completely digital office.
The point is, you’re going to get outside-of-the-box ideas for your business. Even if you don’t use any of them, you can use them as pivot points to come up with ideas of your own.
This is an important question, because you might find that your employees have tasks they can’t stand doing that, frankly, they shouldn’t be doing.
Some tasks can be shifted elsewhere, others can be automated and others might be signs that you need to add a new member to your team.
Chances are good that, when you ask employees what they wish they weren’t doing, they’re not going to talk about core tasks. They’re probably going to talk about peripheral work that prevents them from doing what you hired them to do in the first place.
Put Employees in the Right Place
This is the other side of that coin. Employees likewise have tasks they wish were on their plate that are not.
These might be extensions of their work or they might be completely separate projects. They might even be projects that others are working on that they want to be a part of.
This question helps you to find places to put your employees to work for you that they find challenging and fulfilling. That’s going to help you to retain top talent by keeping them on projects aligned with their interests and professional goals.
Keep Them Engaged
What excites an employee about their career is also what’s going to keep them engaged. Engaged employees are productive employees and also employees that you retain.
Knowing what excites them provides you with information not only about what tasks to assign an employee, but where the energy in your company resides, which in turn helps you to figure out the best course to pilot your organization on.
Make Work Meaningful
Excitement is great, but meaning is important to employees as well. While the former keeps employees engaged on a day to day basis, the latter is what rewards employees on a deeper level over the longer term.
Knowing your employees on each of these levels helps you to know what motivates them and that, in turn, helps you to retain your talent over a longer time frame.
There are bosses who would kill for this kind of information, but fortunately killing isn’t necessary — just asking.
Give Employees Agency
Asking employees what they need help is key. This should be asked in terms of specific time frames as well.
What does an employee need assistance with over the course of the next week? The next month? The next year?
Here you will glean information not only about how to best support employees, but also how to get employees to support another.
This will create a synergy across your organization, helping your employees to bond over the assistance they provide one another. If you want to see some serious growth in terms of employee solidarity, this is a great place to start.
Review the Week
Your employees will likely be ready and willing to tell you where the weak spots have been over the last week — or month or year for that matter.
While they might not be ruminating on the shortcomings of the organization, they might easily be able to offer up information about where the ball was dropped or where the ship could have been run a light tighter.
This is an essential question for any organization cognizant of the fact that improvement must be aimed for constantly, not just every once in awhile.
Sure, you’re asking about monetary compensation. But what you’re more asking about is what kinds of benefits are going to motivate employees.
This is particularly important for millennial employees who generally have different ideas about what compensation motivates them than your older employees.
Look Toward the Future
This provides two layers of insight: First, it lets you know what skills your employee wants to acquire to help them to do their job better and more effectively.
Second, it helps you to know where your staff are looking toward the future — where they want to position themselves in the near term.
Knowing the answers to these two questions will help you to keep your best employees engaged over the years.
Let Them Brag
Knowing what your employees are proud of is going to give you a great deal of insight into both their strengths and what rewards them.
Chances are pretty good that their answers will surprise you.
An employee’s personal point of pride is often not something that’s obvious enough to be on a quarterly report or an annual appraisal. It might be something very small. But that something very small is a giant window into why they stay with your organization and why you want to retain them.
Ask For Feedback
Asking your employees how you can improve your performance can be difficult. However, everyone could use feedback both from above and below.
When your employees tell you what you could be doing more of, they’re offering you an opportunity to support them and their team in their roles. When your employees tell you what you could be doing less of, they’re letting you know how you can let them spread their wings and fly.
And More Feedback
If asking your employees what you can do more or less of is a bit uncomfortable, asking what you can improve about your management style can be downright torture — for both of you.
This is the kind of question you shouldn’t ask unless you want honest feedback. It’s simply unfair to your employees to ask this question to set a trap.
Be ready to take on what an employee says and make changes to your management style.
Ask Yourself One
This isn’t a question for your team. This is a question for you to ask yourself.
It should be the cornerstone of your regular self-assessment. And it’s ultimately what you should be asking yourself. Because this is the question that matters the most.
You have so much that you could be doing, but only so much time to do it in. Are you using your time and energy appropriately? How could you be using it better?
Gaining a Competitive Edge
Communication with your employees is important, not just so that you can communicate your needs and expectations, but also so that you can get feedback. That feedback, in turn, can help you to make meaningful improvements to your organization.
Talking to your employees regularly and fearlessly can give you a competitive edge that more gunshy business owners won’t have.
Don’t be afraid to ask these questions and to ask them regularly.