on February 5, 2009
Question: What’s the best way to know for sure if your employees are happy at work?
Answer: Ask them!
Except, of course, it’s not quite that simple. If you ask the typical employee with a healthy respect for the boss and a strong desire to keep his job if he’s happy at work, he’ll almost certainly say “yes,” regardless of how he actually feels.
So you really can’t ask that question. But what you can do is regularly ask employees other questions that will give you insight into their level of job satisfaction while demonstrating that you really care about how they feel.
I’ve already blogged about the most important question a boss should ask, and that is: What can I do to make your job more rewarding, interesting, and satisfying? That question should be posed at least quarterly. And here’s a list of some other questions you should ask from time to time.
- How do you think our customers would describe our company?
- What would you say is our company’s greatest strength? And what’s the thing the company needs to improve on the most?
- What can we do as your employer to help you achieve your goals, both personally and professionally?
- What’s the best day (or best experience) you’ve ever had on this job?
- If you won the lottery and became wealthy, what would you do and how would your life change?
- What could this company do to give more recognition to employees for their contributions?
- If you had the chance to learn a new skill or become an expert in something other than what you do now, what would it be?
Asking questions like these will engage most employees in an interesting conversation that will really add to the boss-employee relationship. That means that in addition asking the question, the boss must listen to the answer, take it seriously no matter what is said, comment on it, and convey sincere interest. Don’t ask the questions one after another, which would inevitably make employees feel like they’re being interrogated. Just ask one of these at the end of a conversation or when they’ve come to you for information or direction. When there’s a calm, appropriate boss—employee opportunity, seize it-and ask a question that will show your employees they really matter to you.