Call Shari 303-863-0948 or Email Us

Posts Tagged ‘questions to ask at work’

Send Fewer Employee Engagement Surveys – Talk with Employees Instead

Lots of organizations send out employee engagement surveys with the desire of improving employee engagement and retention; unfortunately they often damage both in the process.

There are a few employee engagement survey pitfalls that are luckily easy to avoid.

Here are three practices to follow when sending out employee engagement surveys:

  1. Shorter is better. I hate to say this, but no one wants to fill out your employee engagement survey. It’s time consuming, employees doubt the survey will yield results, and employees worry that their feedback isn’t really confidential.

Make your employee engagement survey easy to fill out by making it short. And by short, I mean 10 questions or fewer.  You’ll get a better response rate to a 10-question survey than a 65-question one. And do you really need more information than the answers to ten well-written questions?

  1. Provide employees with survey results quickly. Most organizations ask for too much information. Leaders are overwhelmed by the survey information, so they spend months and months reviewing it, while employees comment on yet another employee survey with no communication.

Send out a communication sharing the top few learnings – the good and the not-so-good — within a few weeks of sending out the survey. You don’t need to take action at the same time. Simply keep employees in the loop by communicating a quick summary of what you learned. If you wait too long to share the feedback, it often never gets communicated. And the next time you send out a survey, employees will remember the absence of information and be hesitant to fill it out.

  1. Within 90-days, tell employees what you will and won’t be changing, based on the survey feedback, and tell them why. Employees don’t need or expect all of their input to be utilized. Closing the loop with clear communication about what you are and aren’t changing, and why, is often sufficient.

All of that being said, I’m going to recommend you send out fewer surveys. Employee engagement surveys are a good way to quickly collect lots of information. Engagement surveys are not a good way of building trust and relationships with employees, which is what leads to employee engagement and retention. Employees don’t feel closer to an organization’s leadership team after filling out an employee engagement survey. Trust isn’t built. Instead of sending out so many surveys, I’d suggest cutting the number in half and have leaders and managers hold roundtable discussions with groups of 6-8 employees a few times a year instead. Roundtable discussions achieve several goals at once—they give leaders visibility, which builds trust, they help leaders build rapport and relationships, and gather the same data that a written survey provides.

When leaders participate in our Be a Best Place to Work program, we teach the five things leaders need to do to engage and retain employees. Holding roundtable discussions and asking these questions is a key recommendation of the training. Sending out written surveys is not. Engage and retain employees by talking with employees. Ask employees for their input. Listen. And watch your employee engagement survey scores sky rocket.

employee surveys leader cards


Send Fewer Employee Engagement Surveys – Talk with Employees Instead

employee engagement surveysLots of organizations send out employee engagement surveys with the desire of improving employee engagement and retention; unfortunately they often damage both in the process.

There are a few employee engagement survey pitfalls that are luckily easy to avoid.

Here are three practices to follow when sending out employee engagement surveys:

  1. Shorter is better. I hate to say this, but no one wants to fill out your employee engagement survey. It’s time consuming, employees doubt the survey will yield results, and employees worry that their feedback isn’t really confidential.

Make your employee engagement survey easy to fill out by making it short. And by short, I mean 10 questions or fewer.  You’ll get a better response rate to a 10-question survey than a 65-question one. And do you really need more information than the answers to ten well-written questions?

  1. Provide employees with survey results quickly. Most organizations ask for too much information. Leaders are overwhelmed by the survey information, so they spend months and months reviewing it, while employees comment on yet another employee survey with no communication.

Send out a communication sharing the top few learnings – the good and the not-so-good — within a few weeks of sending out the survey. You don’t need to take action at the same time. Simply keep employees in the loop by communicating a quick summary of what you learned. If you wait too long to share the feedback, it often never gets communicated. And the next time you send out a survey, employees will remember the absence of information and be hesitant to fill it out.

  1. Within 90-days, tell employees what you will and won’t be changing, based on the survey feedback, and tell them why. Employees don’t need or expect all of their input to be utilized. Closing the loop with clear communication about what you are and aren’t changing, and why, is often sufficient.

All of that being said, I’m going to recommend you send out fewer surveys. Employee engagement surveys are a good way to quickly collect lots of information. Engagement surveys are not a good way of building trust and relationships with employees, which is what leads to employee engagement and retention. Employees don’t feel closer to an organization’s leadership team after filling out an employee engagement survey. Trust isn’t built. Instead of sending out so many surveys, I’d suggest cutting the number in half and have leaders and managers hold roundtable discussions with groups of 6-8 employees a few times a year instead. Roundtable discussions achieve several goals at once—they give leaders visibility, which builds trust, they help leaders build rapport and relationships, and gather the same data that a written survey provides.

When leaders participate in our Be a Best Place to Work program, we teach the five things leaders need to do to engage and retain employees. Holding roundtable discussions and asking these questions is a key recommendation of the training. Sending out written surveys is not. Engage and retain employees by talking with employees. Ask employees for their input. Listen. And watch your employee engagement survey scores sky rocket.

employee surveys leader cards


Employee Engagement Surveys – Why Not Do Them Live?

Employee Engagement SurveysSurveys are a great way to gather data. They’re not a great way to build relationships. In addition to sending out employee engagement surveys, ask questions live. Employees want to talk about their experience working with your organization. And employees will give you real, honest, and salient data, if you ask them and make it safe to tell the truth.

Here are a few methods of gathering data, in addition to sending employee engagement surveys:

Managers, ask questions during every one-on-one and team meeting with employees.

Managers, consider asking: 

  • What’s being talked about in the rumor mill?
  • What do I need to know about that you suspect I don’t?
  • What makes your job harder than it has to be?  What would make your job easier?
  • What meetings are not a good use of time?

Listen and be careful not to defend. Employees want to be heard. Respond if you’re able, but don’t deflect the feedback you’ve received.

Leaders, conduct roundtable discussions with small groups of employees throughout the year. I’d suggest discussions with groups of six employees. Have lunch or coffee. Keep the meetings informal.

Leaders, consider asking:

  • What’s a good decision we made in the last six months. What’s a decision we made that you question?
  • What would need to happen for you to be comfortable referring your friends to work here?
  • What’s something happening in the organization that you’re concerned about?

How to Get the Truth:

  • Share as much information as you can. Trust your employees.
  • Ensure there are no negative consequences for people who tell you the truth.
  • Give positive attention to the people who risk and give you negative information.
  • Tell employees what you learn during these discussions and what you will and won’t be doing with the information.
    • You don’t need to act on every piece of data you receive. Just acknowledge what you heard and explain why you will or won’t be taking action.

Employees are loyal to managers and organizations they feel connected to. And connections are formed through conversations.  So in addition to sending employee engagement surveys, ask questions during every conversation and make it clear that you’re listening to the answers.

Employee Engagement Surveys

 

 


How to Retain Good Employees, and Yourself

The fear of saying what we think and asking for what we want at work is prevalent across organizations. We want more money, but don’t know how to ask for it. We want to advance our careers but are concerned about the impression we’ll make if we ask for more. Instead of making requests, many employees assume they won’t get their needs met and choose to leave their jobs, either physically or emotionally.

How to Retain Good Employees:

The key to keeping the best employees engaged and doing their best work is to ask more questions and make it safe to tell the truth.

Managers:How to Retain Good Employees

  • Do you know why your employees chose your organization and what would make them leave?
  • Do you know your employees’ best and worst boss?

The answers to these questions tells managers what employees need from the organization, job, and from the manager/employee working relationship.

Can your manager answer these questions – that I call Candor Questions – about you? For most people, the answer is no. Most managers don’t ask these questions. And most employees are not comfortable giving this information, especially if the manager hasn’t asked for it.

It’s easy to mistake my book, How to Say Anything to Anyone, as a book about giving feedback. It’s not. It takes me nine chapters to get to feedback. The first eight chapters of the book are about how to create relationships in which you can tell the truth without fear. You can read all the feedback books you want and take numerous training classes on coaching, managing people, giving feedback, and managing conflict, and you’ll still be hesitant to speak up, because a formula for giving feedback is not what you’re missing. What’s missing is being given permission and knowing it’s safe to tell the truth.

How to Retain Good Employees

Managers, here’s how to retain good employees:

“I appreciate you choosing to work here. I want this to be the best career move you’ve made, and I want to be the best boss you’ve had. I don’t want to have to guess what’s important to you. I’d like to ask you some questions to get to know you and your career goals better. Please tell me anything you’re comfortable saying. And if you’re not comfortable answering a question, just know that I’m interested and I care. And if, at any point, you’re comfortable telling me, I’d like to know.”

How to Retain Good EmployeesThen ask the Candor Questions during job interviews, one-on-one, and team meetings. We’re always learning how to work with people. So continue asking questions throughout your relationships. These conversations are not one-time events.

If you work for someone who isn’t asking you these questions, offer the information. You could say:

“I wanted to tell you why I chose this organization and job, and what keeps me here. I also want to tell you the things I really need to be happy and do my best work. Is it ok if I share?”

Your manager will be caught off guard, but it is likely that she will also be grateful. It’s much easier to manage people when you know what they need and why. Most managers want this information, it just may not occur to them to ask.

If the language above makes you uncomfortable, you can always blame me. You could say:

“I read this blog and the author suggested I tell you what brought me to this organization and what I really need to be happy here and do my best work. She said I’d be easier to manage if you had that information. Is it ok if I share?”

Yes, this might feel a little awkward at first, but the conversation will flow, and both you and your manager will learn a great deal about each other.

The ability to tell the truth starts with asking questions, giving people permission to speak candidly, and listening to the answers.
How to Retain Good Employees


Giving Feedback is Hard – Setting Expectations Is Easier

Setting ExpectationsMy last few blog posts focused on giving feedback. The posts were designed to help managers get ready to write and deliver performance appraisals.

Giving feedback will always be hard. No one wants to hear that she isn’t doing a good job, thus no one wants to tell her. Part of the performance appraisal process is setting expectations for the next year. And asking for what you want, before problems happen, will always be easier than giving feedback.

If you’ve seen me speak or attended one of our training programs, you received a list of Candor Questions designed to eliminate the guessing at work. They may have been questions for leaders, managers, strengthening business relationships or managing careers. Regardless of which Candor Question Cards you received, the goal is the same. Ask more. Assume less.

The most frequent request I get is for feedback training. Managers tell me, “The communication in our company isn’t good. Can you help our managers and employees be more candid?”  And I tell business leaders, “I teach people to be more comfortable giving feedback. But why start with something hard? Why not start by asking more questions and getting to know people better, which is much easier and will reduce the number of feedback conversations you need to have?”

When we know what people expect, we can give people what they need. We make fewer ‘mistakes’, requiring fewer feedback conversations. So start with what’s easy. Ask more questions.

Start with what I call Introductory Candor Questions

  • How do you like to receive information – email, voicemail or text message?
  • Are you a detail-oriented or a big-picture person? How much information do you want to receive and in what format?
  • What are your pet peeves at work? What would I do that would be frustrating, and I’d never know it?

Then move on to Candor Questions for Managers:

  • What had you choose to work here, and what would make you question that decision?
  • What kind of work do you love to do most? What kind of work do you like to do least?
  • What do you wish I would start, stop, and continue doing?

You can download samples of our seven types of Candor Questions here.

People are not us and don’t do things the way we do. Don’t assume someone will create a report as you would, participate in a meeting as you would, or dress for an event as you would. Setting expectations before the event of what you want, gives them a chance to be successful.

 

 

Giving Feedback is Hard – Asking for What You Want is Easier. By Shari Harley.


Under Commit In 2013 – Make New Year’s Resolutions and Set Goals That Set You Up to Win

Under commit in 2013Tis’ the season to over commit.

It’s almost January 1st, when many of us begin thinking about New Year’s Resolutions. We vow to lose 20 pounds, save 10% of our income, get promoted at work, take an exotic vacation, be a better partner, etc. etc. Also known as “how to set yourself up to fail” in five easy steps.  The reality is we might do one or two of those things, if that.

Why not set yourself up to win instead? Instead of setting huge goals that are unlikely to happen, why not set more realistic goals that you can and will likely to do?

If you manage people, perhaps you’re thinking about how you can be a better manager in 2013. Or you may be thinking about how you can accelerate your career. You may decide to meet with your employees more frequently, or ask your boss for more feedback, or ask for new and different work. You may think that doing these things will help you strengthen your relationships with your employees and your reputation, and advance your career. Doing any of these things might help you strengthen your business relationships and help you get ahead. But they might not, if those things are not important to your employees, your boss and/or your organization.

In 2013, put energy and resources into the things that truly matter to the people you work with, rather than the things you think they think are important. And the only way to know what the people around you really want and need is to ask them.  Don’t assume you know what is important to your boss, direct reports and coworkers, ask them. Ask more. Assume less.

There are countless examples of managers who went to great lengths to make their employees happy. They gave bonuses, cool projects, and time off. And their employees quit anyway. Or, trying to make a manager happy, employees stayed late, beat deadlines, and took on additional work, and still got a mediocre review. Rather than doing what you think others want, ask them!

How about this for a New Year’s resolution — ask your boss, direct reports and key customers these questions as you begin the New Year:

  1. What’s the most important work I did in the past 12 months?
  2. What’s an area, in 2012, I exceeded your expectations?
  3. How did I let you down?
  4. If I could do one thing differently this year that would make the biggest difference for you and/or the organization, what would it be?
  5. Where do you think I should focus my energy in 2013?
  6. It may be intimidating to ask for feedback from your peers and direct reports. But you won’t know what to do more, better, or differently if you don’t ask.

The right answer to feedback is always “thank you,” regardless of what you really want to say.  Saying “thank you” makes you a safe person to whom to tell the truth and makes it more likely you’ll get more information in the future. So bite your tongue and respond to all feedback with, “Thank you for telling me that. I’m going to think about what you’ve said and may come back to you to discuss further.” They’ll be relieved, and you’ll strengthen your professional image.

It’s easy to assume what others want and are expecting from us. The problem is we’re not always correct. Thus we expend energy doing things that others don’t find valuable or important, otherwise known as wasting time and resources.

Your time and budget dollars are valuable. Use your time and money for things that others actually want, versus what you think they want. In 2013, dial it back. Make realistic, attainable goals that are aligned with what the people around want and need. And in return, you too will get what you want and need.

Take advantage of the last day to get a free box of Candor Questions with a purchase of $75 or more candor products.


Sign Up

Career tips
you won't get
elsewhere. Sign up
to get a free
tip card.