This tweet inspired this post.
First, I only know Richard Lambert from his tweets and his LinkedIn group. I imagine if we met, had coffee, I'd find his company enjoyable, pleasant. Over the years, if we met regularly, I'd consider him a friend.
From what I've read, seeing he's consistent and dedicated, I find him sincere in pursuing his mission as it's stated on his Twitter profile: Founder of Happy Staff Happy Company, a resource for SMEs, Business Owners and HR Professionals who want to know what their staff REALLY think about their jobs.
There's no "but" here. There is a time to turn to outside consultants, especially the good ones like Richard, for help in preparing surveys. That being said ... yeah, that being said those surveys no matter how well-organized and word-smithed they may be will ultimately fall on on a barren soil - a cynical, distrusting, eye-rolling workforce if you haven't first asked them.
You see, your employees are your resident expert in what issues are important to them. The members of your staff are your resident experts in their world and their work and what makes it possible or doesn't. They are your world-class experts in what they do and why it matters ... to someone, anyone … or not.
Individually they can offer expert 1-to-1 advice on what issues, topics, concerns, needs and desires or irritants and obstacles are important to them and thus important to you.
So … why not ask them. 1-to-1. See, if you do, then:
- you're engaging with them in a conversation
- you're creating a culture of engagement
- you're creating a culture of trust
- you're creating a culture of learners which is a culture of leaders. Thank you Gary Harpst.
- you're creating a fertile soil where you next great big survey will land and from it sprout more conversations based on your employees' needs and concerns and voices. (Hint: that's the business equivalent of sustainable agriculture.)
- you're creating a self-sustaining machine that builds engagement, that reverses the process of transforming humans into cogs. Now you're turning cogs back into humans.
That's … you got it, employee engagement.
Sure, it's messy. People are messy. We're also glorious and surprising and inspiring in what we can do if we just ask each other.
So, if you're looking for expert 1-to-1 advice on what to ask employees … ask your employees.
- What do you think?
- What's holding you back?
- What more can I do to help you?
- What do you think about x, y or z?
- How's your weekend, how's your health, how's your [family member]?
- How's your new [equipment, tool, resource, ap]?
- What are customers saying about [x]?
Keep engaging. Keep listening. Keep asking. Keep learning. Keep tilling that soil so when you need to plant a new seed, drop a staff survey in their email, it will land on fertile, receptive minds.
I know this soil/agriculture metaphor may seem unusual. But I live in Iowa. Outside my window, out on my runs, I can see the results of those who tend to their land and those who don't. I've worked in companies where I saw and heard and felt the results of those who tended to their all their employees and those who put up posters about it.