3 Questions Every Employee Has — and Why You Need to Answer Them

October 16, 2017

Every employee walks around every day trying to understand the answers to three questions:

  1. Where are we going?
  2. How am I doing?
  3. What can I do to make things better here?

Before you dismiss these simple questions, consider that an Edelman Trust Barometer survey of 30,000 employees found that 70 percent don’t trust their employers to treat them well. Just 29 percent said their companies communicate with them frequently and honestly.

Any employer looking for engaged employees who are aligned with the company’s goals should consider each of these questions and how it relates to trust and communications.

1. Where Are We Going?

People want to know where the company they work for is headed over the next several years. They want to know the company’s goals for the year, quarter and month — and how progress will be measured.

Short of this information, days run into weeks, which turn into months…until a year goes by and no one has felt any progress. Employees then create their own stories, which are often not positive.

But with ongoing communication, 80 percent of employees reported being highly engaged and having trust and confidence in their leaders.

2. How Am I Doing?

People want to know if they’re doing the right things and whether those things are getting the desired results. In other words: Is what I’m doing making a difference?

Disengaged employees often complain they never get feedback. In fact, a recent survey from Office Vibe says 65 percent want more than they’re getting from their bosses.

It’s even worse when you realize the only feedback many of them get is in their formal annual reviews.

Instead, they should be receiving feedback in an ongoing series of conversations — monthly (if not weekly) — that focus on specifics about what’s working, what needs to change and what resources they need.

These ongoing conversations stay ahead of the question and provide answers that are usable and actionable.

3. What Can I Do to Make Things Better Here?

People have suggestions they want to contribute. But too often, managers shut them down. Too often, we reply, “That’s not the way we do things,” or “We tried that, and it didn’t work.” It doesn’t take many of these to shut down an employee’s enthusiasm.

A story goes that Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, was touring an appliance factory to figure out how to improve operations. He stopped to talk to an employee, who gave some good ideas. Welch asked his assistant to make sure he was taking down the ideas, and the worker said: “Mr. Welch, for 30 years you’ve paid me for my hands, and you could have had my head for free.”

By listening, we gain ideas for improvements and signal to employees that they’re part of the solutions, their ideas are valuable and we appreciate them for thinking about how to make things better.

Look back at those three questions. Do you think your employees have them — and do you wonder if answering will help?

Your employees will see where the company is headed, they’ll know their contributions are valued and they’ll see you’re open to their suggestions. That sounds like the very definition of highly engaged and aligned employees.

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