Whether employees ask them or not, there are some fundamental and essential employee questions that every business owner must be able to instantly answer, without looking incompetent, out-of-touch, uncaring, or aloof. These questions are similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and the employee’s basic needs should be addressed first. If you do not know the answers to any of the following questions, now would be a good time to do a little research.
Employee questions are “me” focused on helping them understand what is happening and where they fit in. When these questions are answered, the employee can enter the mindset of “we” focused. It is important to remember that employees ask themselves these questions every day, whether they are new to the business or have been around for years. And with the rate of change in business today, these questions are asked far more frequently.
- What Is My Job?
Knowing and understanding the expectations of any job starts when the job opening is announced. This should come from a position or job description. Being able to explain the essential duties and skills required should be part of the interviewing and selection process, and continues with employee onboarding, training, and professional development.
Expectations include key result areas, standards, goals, and required knowledge, skills, and abilities (competencies). These metrics are most easily identified through a rubric of skills and competency expectations.
As business conditions and requirements change, roles and responsibilities will likewise evolve. Problems may occur when these employee expectations change in the manager’s mind but are never communicated to the employee.
- How Am I Doing?
This question is getting at the need for feedback. Some would say that the millennial generation places an even higher value on feedback. Employees need reassurance that they are meeting expectations and corrective feedback when they are not. Feedback should be ongoing, specific, timely, and sincere to be effective. An excellent resource for giving feedback is Kim Scott’s Radical Candor.
- Does Anyone Care About Me?
Employees are not resources–they are people. As such, they need others to care for and be concerned about them. This need goes beyond the “How are things going?” question. It means knowing the employee as a person, caring about their personal life, and demonstrating real interest in them. When employees believe they are a number or a timecard, they will soon have as little interest in your business as you show in them.
- What’s Going On?
Employees also want to be kept up to date about the overall health of your team and company performance. All leaders should be able to answer questions about their own teams’ performance, but they should also have enough business acumen to discuss overall company performance. If your company uses a scorecard to monitor performance over time, this is an ideal tool to leverage to keep employees properly informed.
- What’s Our Strategy?
Engaged employees want to know where the business is going. Doing this requires leaders to be transparent about the intention of decisions and initiatives. Employees want to know what “the plan” is because they need to be a part of it. If they do not see the strategy, they do not know how to help achieve the objectives.
- How Are We Doing?
Nobody wants to be actively involved in a sinking ship. Employees want to know the health, plans, successes, and failures of the organization they are working for. They take the bad news as well as the good, but they need to know. It helps them know they are doing a good job or see if they need to contribute somewhere else.
- What Is Our Culture?
Employees will not always ask about the culture, but they may ask about unwritten rules, or “how things work around here.” Strong cultures can drive strong business performance, and high performing organizations understand the importance of communicating and reinforcing their culture. The beauty of culture is, if done right, it is an outgrowth of your company’s vision, mission, and values.
- How Can I Help?
When people believe that their personal concerns have been addressed and taken care of, they want to help. They want to believe in something greater than themselves. This could be the self-actualization at the pinnacle of Maslow’s Hierarchy. It is the opportunity for your employees to reach beyond themselves, stretch, and help your business grow.
Although often ignored, employees are people who need to know they add value and are appreciated–regardless of their position. It is your responsibility as a leader to make them aware of the value they bring. Answer these questions before they are asked–and thrive.