We usually know when our friends and significant others are angry, excited or stressed out. As a manager, picking up on those same emotions across dozens of employees doesn’t is not as easy. But being able to gauge how happy – or not – employees are in their jobs is a must if you want to help build a thriving, healthy company.
An increasing number of HR professionals across all business niches admit they are hitting recruiting roadblocks in the current talent market. This means that retaining top performers is more important than perhaps ever before. Now’s the perfect time for managers to make a bigger effort to understand what their employees need in their roles – and from their managers – to succeed. This starts with asking the right questions.
The Right Questions at the Right Time
Asking employees to rate their happiness on a scale of one to 10 isn’t enough to measure their satisfaction. The numbers alone are too subjective, and prone to change at a moment’s notice. Instead, leaders and managers need to ask questions that directly correlate with on-the-job happiness and engagement.
Frequency is just as important as planning smart questions. Posing the right questions, but only during an annual employee survey will not be as effective as you need it to be.
By the time the data from those surveys is crunched–often months after employees responded–it may be too late to address their concerns or feedback. What’s worse, annual surveys become retrospectives – a look back at how employees felt – rather than indicators of how how they feel right now.
To really get a better understanding of your employees’ satisfaction – the kind of information that can help prevent turnover and boost morale – these are the questions you need to ask on a regular basis:
How do your personal career goals align with our company’s goals?
It is standard practice in most companies to set goals and quotas for employees to meet, for example, bring in four new customers this month, take and pass two training modules etc. But these goals are not always very helpful in making an employee feel like their efforts are contributing to the company's success.
Reinforcing how team and individual goals complement the company’s objectives gives employees more confidence in the work they do every day and a greater feeling of a job well done.
What part of your job do you find most meaningful?
If employees don’t see the point in the work they do , that will reflect in their job satisfaction – and eventually their job performance. There’s a big difference between putting effort into a job you feel has purpose, compared to one where you feel like another body in an open office that could be replaced by any other 'body' in an instant.
Employees who are not currently seeing the point of their work are not always a lost cause though If you take the time to offer them new learning opportunities, explain how their individual tasks contribute to the company’s vision, and reevaluating employees’ strengths to identify lateral career moves can instill new meaning to their jobs for existing staff.
How can your manager/I offer better support and coaching?
There’s a reason why the saying “people quit their boss, not their companies” exists – research suggests managers account for 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement levels. Employees who don’t feel supported or advocated for tend to disengage and they are often unwilling to speak up about things they need from their supervisors for fear of retaliation.
The fact is that performance and coaching conversations need to be a two-way street, and that giving employees a 'safe' forum to share feedback about their bosses is a must.
How do you like to be acknowledged for your good work?
Most U.S. employees don’t feel their supervisors recognize them enough for their efforts. Unsurprisingly, almost half would work harder if they knew they’d be recognized more often. If your employees aren’t getting the acknowledgement they deserve (beyond traditional employee of the month certificates and praise in six-month reviews), it’s time to rethink your approach.