Asking the right questions

Do you or your clients wonder why other firms down the road are packed with willing workers committed to what they do while yours is not?

Have you ever wondered whether this has any impact on your sales figures?

Do you realise that the psychological well-being of your staff keeps your firm healthy?

Gallup, the market research and recruitment consultancy, recently tackled these issues in Building a Stronger Workplace, a survey it conducted of 41,490 US employees across 17 firms and 1,135 business units. It believes it has come up with some definitive answers on why employees are taking their services and information straight to the competition.

In firms which are always one step behind their competitors, profits are not as great as they could be and staff turnover is high; Gallup believes that in such firms employees’ needs are not being addressed, that is, they do not feel valued by their firms.

While firms may answer ‘So what?’, they would be wise to take heed.

When Gallup compared two US retail competitors there was a direct correlation between employees’ anxiety about not feeling valued, their sense of engagement and commitment to their work and profits.

Gallup found that sales in one of the firms were below par, and the difference in turnover between the two firms was $104m per annum. But, more importantly, the fragile firm was losing 1,000 more employees during the year than its competitor.

The survey demonstrated an important link between business performance and employee attitude. It claims that unhealthy firms do not ask their employees the right questions, and therefore cannot identify their employees’ real needs.

While carrying out the US-based survey and by interviewing people considered to be best in their fields, Gallup identified several factors common to a productive workplace.

From that information it developed questions that it believes to be pertinent to creating best practice and building a stronger workplace.

Gallup US vice president Marcus Buckingham outlines 12 essential questions, known as Q12, which will give firms an instant health check and measure their strength.

Of the 12 questions the firm developed and put to employees as part of the meta analysis, Buckingham said that there were four questions that had a direct impact on sales and performance: Am I good at my job? How do I know that? Do my opinions count? Do I have a best friend?

Based on the responses of 75 per cent of the 41,490 employees who asked themselves the questions, Gallup identified a direct link between whether employees felt their opinions counted, and profit; whether they have an opportunity to grow, and customer satisfaction; and whether they know what is expected of them, and customer satisfaction.

What was most surprising, according to Buckingham, was the direct correlation between having a best friend at work, turnover, and customer satisfaction.

He says that as long as people do not have their needs met they burn out, become unproductive and leave.

Managers can get their employees to commit, by ensuring that they ask the right questions. So that when employees ask themselves: What do I get? What do I give? Do I belong? How can we grow? as they climb the career ladder they find that they can say yes, our needs are being met.

If employees cannot say yes to these questions in their ascent through the firm, the health of the firm is questionable, says Gallup.

Buckingham says that firms need to lay bare the basic psychological needs of their employees in order to get them to rise to the top of their profession and be fully committed.

“Just by using these questions as a basis for finding out where their employees are in the journey prevents confusion and misunderstanding,” he says. “If you don’t know where your people are, then you will lose them to a competitor.”

Firms tend to concentrate their development efforts at the top of the organisational hierarchy, rather than getting people up to the top, the survey says.

“If you don’t know if there is going to be a job, desks or tools you are not going to be committed,” says Buckingham. “Or if you find that your opinions don’t count you start running down the mountain again out of fear or anxiety.”

If a firm ensures that its employees feel that their job is important in terms of the firm’s mission statement, the workforce will put in more effort.

“This is a psychological journey and these are questions that a manager can have impact on-a lot of that responsibility is in the managers’ hands,” says Buckingham. “Managers can establish how each individual employee climbs the mountain.”

The twelve questions for staff

Do I know what is expected of me at work?

Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?

Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for good work?

Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?

Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress?

At work, do my opinions seem to count?

Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?

Are my associates committed to doing quality work?

Do I have a best friend at work?

This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

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