Nowadays, employers are paying a lot more attention to how employees feel about their managers, their organizations and their day-to-day duties. And one company has come up with an astonishing plan to ferret out that data: Ask workers direct questions.
No, we’re not talking about those long and involved employee surveys. David Niu, founder of engagement and retention consulting firm TinyPulse, formulated a far simpler plan.
The program: Ask employees a single question, via email, at regular intervals. The responses, rendered anonymous by a tool offered by TinyPulse, gives organizations immediate feedback on how workers feel about workplace issues large and small.
Sharon Florentine, writing on the CIO blog, quotes Niu:
“I came up with the idea that businesses should constantly have their finger on the pulse — hence the name — of their employees,” Niu says. “Most companies do [performance] reviews once a year, but businesses change more than once a year. You don’t check your finances once a year. You don’t evaluate your business strategy just once a year, so why do we put culture and people and their engagement and satisfaction last?”
Three typical queries:
- Name one process that, were it eliminated, would make you more productive.
- How transparent is management?
- Please rate the quality of the snacks in the kitchen.
And don’t just dismiss that last question as frivolous. Florentine writes that one TinyPulse client asked employees to name one thing about their office that really bothered them, Niu says. The employees overwhelmingly agreed that the water available for drinking was awful. One employee wrote, “The water tastes like a toilet bowl!”
The client was taken aback — the company had been working in the same office for three years and nobody had mentioned how bad the water tasted — and put in a water filter. Problem solved, potential morale killer eliminated.
The one-off question approach is way simpler than a full-blown employee survey, Florentine points out. A survey requires developing questions, evaluating responses and then devising a plan to address the multiple issues raised. The whole process can be daunting, especially for small companies.
Other areas to explore
In another blog post on Inc.com, Ilan Mochari took the three questions above, consulted some employment experts and recent research and put together an expanded list of questions employers might want to ask workers. Here it is:
1. Name one process that, were it eliminated, would make you more productive. This is a straightforward bureaucracy-buster. You know that if several employees cite the same process, you’ve hit on a source of serious frustration.
2. How transparent is management? It’s not to imply that you have to tell your employees everything. What you’re trying to assess is whether employees feel surprised or blindsided by your decisions — or if you’re inconsistent on big-picture topics.
3. Please rate the quality of the snacks in the kitchen. This may seem frivolous, but it matters. Niu told Florentine that he asked it to TinyPulse’s employees, and he learned that none of them liked the brand of pretzels he’d bring in every now and then. “In and of itself, that’s not a huge issue — but if you’re in management, and you don’t know these things, big or little, how can you fix them?” he says.
4. Can you list for me the factors that could contribute to your doing the best work of your life? This question comes from Dr. John Sullivan, former chief talent officer for Agilent Technologies. Sullivan notes that this — the “best work of your life” question – -is the No. 1 retention factor for top performers.
5. Can you highlight any recent recognition and acknowledgment that you have received that increased your commitment and loyalty? This question also comes from Sullivan, courtesy of a superb article on TLNT. The aim is to identify actions that make employees feel appreciated.
6. How would you assess your opportunities to grow and advance? There’s plenty of evidence that a lack of advancement opportunities — or better advancement opportunities, elsewhere — are why employees leave. Two-time founder Jason Lemkin stresses that finding a growth path for all employees is one of his five biggest lessons learned, when it comes to retention. Likewise, in a recent LinkedIn survey of more than 7,500 employees who’d recently left their jobs, respondents cited greater opportunities for advancement as the number one reason they took new gigs.
7. How confident are you in the leadership of this organization? In the same LinkedIn survey, the number two reason respondents chose their new jobs was “better leadership from senior management.” Beyond the retention benefits, learning if employees lack faith in your leadership can only improve your performance.
Just one word of caution about embarking on a program to gather employee feedback: If you’re going to have the information, management must be on board to respond to the answers you get. Finding out what’s really bugging your employees and then ignoring what you learn is a sure recipe for disaster.