There’s a reason why we avoid asking hard questions–especially in the workplace. Asking hard questions can be uncomfortable. Asking hard questions can take courage. Asking hard questions can even be logistically challenging. But asking hard questions–especially in the case of collecting employee feedback–can be critical to your long-term success as an organization.
In the following article, we’ll talk about how to ask hard questions in the workplace–and why doing so can ultimately deliver lasting value to your business.
Why We Don’t Ask Hard Questions
As mentioned above, there are a few reasons we might avoid asking certain questions in the workplace.
Some questions–such as those concerning mental health or communication styles–might be considered “taboo.” Likewise, some questions might threaten to shatter the status quo at an organization, by eliciting answers that express dissatisfaction with company culture or leadership.
Or, the avoidance of hard questions might simply be symptomatic of a lack of value for employee voices. When leaders view employees as a means to an end, or as cogs in a machine, they’re unlikely to make the effort to collect employee feedback.
The problem with that approach, of course, is that employers then fail to a) gather valuable insight that can help them improve their overall organization, and b) build a healthy organizational culture that results in high retention.
Why Asking Hard Questions Delivers Value
While posing hard questions to your employees may feel uncomfortable, the benefits make it well worth the effort.
The truth is, employee feedback can make or break the difference between an organization that’s healthy and thriving, and an organization that maintains the status quo to the detriment of their employee health, ability to grow, and ultimately, their profits.
Employee Feedback Can Prevent Turnover
First, employee feedback can help prevent turnover.
High employee turnover poses an enormous cost to your organization. Not only does it represent a loss of labor, time, and knowledge, but it can also be extremely expensive. In fact, the cost of turnover can add up to 33% of an employee’s annual salary–easily adding up to tens of thousands of dollars, and potentially hitting six figures.
By collecting feedback, employers can strategically troubleshoot and resolve issues before they cause talent to leave. For example, asking an employee about their mental health can result in a productive conversation that helps employers learn how to mitigate stress and support their staff.
Employee Feedback Keeps Curiosity Alive
According to Forbes, successful founders often lose their curiosity. The problem with that? When leaders lose their curiosity about introducing new ideas or perspectives into their organization, they lose the ability to adapt and evolve in a beneficial way.
By asking so-called “hard questions” in the workplace, leaders can continue to stay curious, remain open to change, and be ready to bring their organization into a greater place of thriving and success.
Employee Feedback Builds a Stronger Organizational Culture
Finally, collecting employee feedback builds a stronger company culture. When leadership asks employees what they feel, think, and believe about their workplace–whether pertaining to workflows, processes, management style, workplace relationships, mission, or more–team members feel more valued and heard. Feedback, open communication, and transparency are encouraged. And ultimately, change and improvement are prioritized.
A Few Hard Questions You May Want to Ask
As a leader, you may be open to asking hard questions–but you don’t know exactly where to begin.
Here are some questions that you can ask your employees that can elicit valuable responses–and insight for your business.
How’s your mental health?
Talking to employees about their mental health may feel strange, especially in a corporate or organizational setting. But good mental health is not only foundational to having a happy, balanced life; it’s critical to working productively, remaining focused, and thriving at work.
High levels of stress and anxiety can plague your team members, as well as your management. One of the core sources of stress is leadership. In fact, one study published by Forbes reported that 35% of respondents cited their boss as their biggest source of stress. The same report said that 66% of respondents had actually lost sleep due to work-related stress–ultimately, affecting physical health and the ability to focus.
Asking about a staff member’s mental health also requires you to explain and define mental health to employees, and to give some indicators of what “good mental health” might look like: the ability to manage stress, connect with others, and feel confident and self-assured at work.
How happy are you with your job?
Asking employees how happy they are with their jobs may seem obvious, but many employers don’t often do it. Except for the occasional quarterly review, employees rarely have an opportunity to communicate how they are actually feeling at work–whether they are happy, bored, stressed, overwhelmed, or frustrated.
Gauging at-work satisfaction has multiple benefits that serve both employees and employers. First, employees reap the benefits of knowing that their at work-experience is valued, and their voices are heard. Next, employers are able to gain insight into how healthy their organization actually is, including how likely employees are to turnover or even burn out, and how they are responding to initiatives to improve employee satisfaction.
Finally, asking employees how happy they are offers organizations a measurable metric that they can track over time to see how they are improving (or declining) in helping their employees to thrive.
How do you feel about our company culture?
Just because an employee is satisfied at their job doesn’t mean they think your organization is healthy. Asking employees an open-ended question about company culture may feel like a recipe for criticism, but it’s an important step towards developing actionable strategies for improvement.
When asked about organizational culture, employees may choose to share surprising insights or helpful advice that can help you create a better company culture. Employees may choose to share something as simple as “I wish there were more opportunities to socialize with colleagues” or as detailed as “I would appreciate a management style that was more hands-off, and helped us develop autonomy, rather than a dependence on hand-holding.”
In any case, asking employees about your organizational culture gives them an opportunity to partner with you in building a better–and ultimately, more successful–company culture.
Ask Hard Questions with Nailted
How can employers ask hard questions in a way that’s efficient, convenient, and repeatable?
Nailted is an employee engagement software that allows employers to regularly survey their staff members, ask for feedback, and provide opportunities for both critical feedback and encouragement. Through a combination of so-called “pulse surveys” that deliver weekly surveys, eNPS (employee net promoter score) surveys, and even one-on-one meetings, Nailted:
- Creates a “safe space” for employees to honestly answer hard questions….
- Builds a culture of transparency and feedback…
- Helps you understand your staff better–in real time…
- Promotes at-work satisfaction, friendships, and motivation.
Using Nailted, you can create a system for asking hard questions. Ultimately, this helps you not to just breach the “discomfort” of asking hard questions; it helps you to build a repeatable process for gleaning insight from employee feedback.