In the second piece of our series on “Asking the Right Questions: Getting the Answers You Need to Run a Successful Small Business,“ we’re taking a look at questions you need to be asking your team on a regular basis. Questions are the basis to any action. And you will have to take ongoing action to ensure your team is happy and productive. As you read, remember that employee happiness, engagement and wonderful company culture all look different for every small business — and that’s why questions are so important!
First, we know that every small business owner continually asks questions of their employees. What’s important here is that you are asking the right questions and identifying what you do with the answers. A great owner asks the right questions and then uses the answers to create positive change or at least respectfully addresses an employee’s answer that may not warrant change right now. An owner with room to improve may be asking questions but may not know how to best utilize the answers or doesn’t respond at all.
Second, conducting info-gathering strategies can be a challenge if this is all new to you! But, there are simple tools that can help small businesses achieve this with ease. Even small businesses with a handful of employees can roll out a number of different methods to gather employee feedback.
Finally, it’s also important to understand how your questions and your employees’ answers to those questions fit into the grand scheme of your business and your goals — and what that looks like on an employee happiness, engagement and productivity level. We are living and working in a time where culture, satisfaction and corporate responsibility matter. More and more, we’re seeing companies adopt new and innovative policies that address real-life challenges because ultimately it does affect the bottom line!
Here’s how it breaks down:
The list could go on and on. You may need to create some categories — processes, culture, benefits/HR, technology, office space, business development and so on. From there, you can drill down to specifics. If you want to ask your employees about company culture, you may start by asking them how they feel about it overall. Beyond that, ask what specifically they like and don’t like — don’t avoid this step. Then ask what they value the most. Ask them what physical items or tools help them feel happy and productive at work. Which intangible incentives do they appreciate and which ones just don’t work for them and why? It’s also very important to ask if they do appreciate a certain “culture” benefit, how could it be better? Sometimes employees love celebrating each other’s birthdays, but the process behind it needs to change to benefit the whole team!
Don’t shy away from the tough questions either. Sometimes, the greatest outcomes are born out of asking one tough question. Like, what is your least favorite part of your role? Why don’t you think this team member is excelling?
When you are thinking about the questions you need to be asking your employees, remember that every category or facet of your business works in tandem. Culture impacts productivity which impacts processes which impact achieving your goals.
Once you’ve identified the right questions, map out a timeline to gather answers to each particular set of questions. You don’t want to overwhelm with a large annual survey. Employees could get fatigued and end up not providing strong feedback. Maybe quarterly works best for your organization, or monthly! That’s something you will have to test.
If communication strategies aren’t your forte, don’t worry. There are so many simple methods and tools to make this info-gathering stage easy. Here are just a few:
• Google Forms
• Simple email direct to the employee
• Document provided to them to fill out
• Paid-platforms like Culture Amp or Officevibe
It will be important to set a deadline to collect feedback and make it clear that employees are expected to respond to your questions in whatever method that may be. This process can take place in phases as well. For example, you can roll out a more general survey to your entire team to collect overall feedback on something. Then, you can set up one-on-one meetings to gather deeper details from each employee. Finally, once you’ve analyzed feedback and have an idea on the action you want to take, you can send a final email asking if anyone has additional considerations. After that, let them know what action you’ve decided to take and why! Closing that loop is vital.
It’s also very important to give employees the opportunity for open dialogue. You may conduct a short survey on a topic and then come together during a staff meeting to discuss so that everyone hears what everyone else has to say. This can be an efficient way to discuss and then make a quick decision on action necessary. At Obsidian, we have weekly staff meetings, quarterly leadership meetings and biannual retreats. We’re constantly asking questions of our employees through many different channels. We also have certain people who are part of the decision-making team, and that ensures after we’ve asked our team certain questions, we follow through and bring things to fruition.
The bottom line – asking your employees the right questions, carefully considering their answers and making decisions to enact change is a valuable process. It’s one that no company can go without doing and yet expect to succeed while maintaining employee happiness. After all, that’s what employees want to know – that you care about what they think and value their input. You show them you do by simply asking them questions.
Obsidian Public Relations is a die-hard team of 13 professionals who specialize in disciplines across the PR spectrum. We seamlessly intertwine the brainpower of strategy with the muscle of tactical execution. Our firm – built on the power of providing excellent communication insight for our clients – was founded in Memphis, Tenn., in 2006 by Courtney Ellett. As the largest PR firm in the region, Obsidian now serves more than 40 clients across the United States. In 2013, our firm was named Small Business of the Year by the Memphis Business Journal, and Obsidian won the coveted VOX award for the best public relations tactic of 2012 given by the Public Relations Society of America, Memphis chapter, for work on behalf of Southern College of Optometry.
If you have questions about Obsidian or public relations in general, don’t hesitate to email us at email@example.com.
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