Failure to adequately engage employees is resulting in monumental costs for companies.
The now well-cited Gallup 2014 study suggests that 7 out of 10 workers are unhappy with work. The same Gallup study suggests that an unhappy workforce can amount to $550 billion in lost productivity a year.
That’s a lot of money left on the table, and that doesn’t even include the cost of replacing workers that decide to throw in the towel to work somewhere else.
The remedy to engage workers won’t immediately be about better pay or perks like beer drinking Fridays. Real employee engagement is about improvements to the way jobs are being done. That means focusing on the rituals, rules, and policies that enable or block the workforce from contributing its best work.
Before we dive into the questions, let’s quickly talk about how you can gather this vital information from individuals and teams.
For starters: ask, and ask frequently. Real employee engagement creates an ongoing dialogue between individuals, teams, and leadership. You have to have conversations with your workforce beyond the initial recruitment process, and regularly in-between formal review cycles. Use employee engagement software that can deploy and collect the answers, suggestions, praise, and criticism across the organization on a weekly basis.
More importantly, you can make it anonymous so your workforce and management can engage in an open and honest space to express their ideas. Listen, reflect, and adjust the culture–do this frequently and you’ll reduce turnover rates while also figuring out how to strengthen your workforce.
Once you’ve assessed the right tool or process for asking questions, you can now start to focus on what to ask your workforce. You want find out what makes people excited to come into work, what frustrates them to the point of madness, how they really see themselves growing in the organization, and what might be getting in their way on a day-to-day basis.
On a functional level you want to know how individuals feel about simply getting the day-to-day job or task done. On an emotional and social level you want to get to the heart of a person’s perspective beyond the functional elements. Who are they trying to impress? How do they perceive themselves against others? What do they crave from leadership or their peers? What makes them happy, angry, or sad? This is an important layer because the emotional and social aspects of the job aren’t as visible as the functional ones.
Ashish Gambhir is president of MomentSnap, an employee engagement software company. He cites a Harvard Business Review survey that says companies where senior leadership stress a transparent environment with good communication can result in over 70% of the workforce being engaged.
“The best employees consider themselves, to some extent, as stakeholders in their company,” says Gambhir. “The brand is a part of their identity, and vice versa — as an employee, they both represent the business and are defined by their role in it. This sentiment becomes difficult to harness when employees feel in the dark about the details that matter.”
Great employee engagement reinforces the feeling that an employee is actually on the ship as opposed to watching from the shore. Gambhir took some time to share the service’s strongest questions to employees.
Try them out and see what you learn about your organization:
1. “How accessible is the information you need to do your job?”
Projects have the tendency to break down when individuals or teams fail to communicate vital information to each other. Who has the authority to make game-time decisions? What is the quality-assurance process? Where is the appropriate documentation for reference and posterity? Whose job is it to communicate progress to the company? What is failure and what is success? The alignment is crucial to stress-free progress or process improvements. This is a question that can get to the heart of what individuals need to know in order to the best job possible. This will improve as you learn what worked and what didn’t from project to project.
2. “When was the last time you felt valued by the company?”
“Being valued is more than receiving a paycheck and benefits. When employees excel at their jobs, they expect to be recognized — not necessarily with a bonus or stock options, but with words,” says Gambhir. This question not only allows individuals to point out an instance of recognition, but it’ll also allow leadership to understand if they are recognizing the workforce frequently enough. Has it been a long time since the employee felt valued? Has the employee pointed out how great it is to be recognized on a weekly basis? Was there a particular piece of recognition in a specific area of their work that really made them feel great? Make a note of this and work to recognize them in the place they care about the most–it’s a great opportunity to motivate the individual.
3. “When was the last time you felt proud about your work?”
This question complements the previous one because being valued will go hand-in-hand with what the individual feels is their proudest contribution. It’s also a less intrusive way to get the individual to share why they may not be contributing as well as they could have since the last moment. How long has it been since the person has done something to be proud of? What was holding them back? Was it something personal or professional? Perhaps, like in the first question, he or she didn’t have the information needed to do a great job. This is a good question to avoid the individual from becoming defensive; and instead, own their performance. Gambhir also believes that providing employees with frequent access to performance data–where they did well, where they could’ve done better–can boost performance from 8-20%.
4. “How would you rate your performance in comparison to your peers?”
A healthy dose of competition is important for motivating and incentivizing your team to contribute their best work. It’s also a way to assess where individuals and teams can improve or aspire to against the lens of their peers. However, this is a fine line to cross. Some companies will engage in a win-at-all-cost approach where teams are pitted against each other for maximum success). This question is a great way to understand how individuals perceive themselves to others (whether it’s confidence or insecurity of their skills). The objective with this question is not to instigate an all out office war, but rather to create an environment where top performers can be matched to those whose skills can be strengthened. In turn, you’re facilitating a collaborative environment where everyone strives for the best performance.
5. “When was the last time you felt frustrated about your job?”
All of these questions may touch on frustrations being felt by the workforce, but this question aims to tackle a specific frustration head on, especially ones that have occurred in recent memory. The answer will give you a sense of the person’s level of engagement with their role and the company. A frustrating moment may have turned the person off from trying; and as a result, he or she has given up on contributing to the company. Alternatively, it might be a window into a moment when the person was blocked, but then actively worked to find a solution. Another follow up for leaders to try: how has management frustrated you lately?
It’s important to note that the questions above are meant to solicit specific instances and generate real examples. You want to avoid yes or no questioning because it will fail to get to the root of an individual’s answer. That’s why every question has been constructed to hone in on the who, what, when, where, why, and how. Do this frequently, and it’s guaranteed you will learn important information on where your workforce wants to go. More importantly, you will learn how the organization needs to improve so people can contribute their best work.
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This article was written by Kavi Guppta from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.