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What Employees Want (Hint: It's Not Just Money)

Do you know what your employees really want from your organization?

You should, and it pays to find out. A 2013 Gallup study shows that companies in the top quartile for employee engagement outperform their bottom 25% competitors with:

  • 147% higher earnings per share (no, that’s not a typo),
  • 22% higher profitability,
  • 21% higher productivity and
  • 41% fewer quality defects.

Happy, productive employees make profitable companies. So how do you improve employee engagement? Start by asking questions.

Survey Says: Everything’s Fine (Data Says: Everything’s Not)

If you want to know what your employees want, the obvious thing to do is ask them. But before you issue a lengthy survey, consider three things:

  1. You are in a position of greater power than the individual answering the questions. They might just tell you what they think you want to hear.
  2. Multiple-choice questions don’t always tell the whole story.
  3. Follow-up is mandatory.

Surveys are conversations, not one-off quizzes or interrogations. How would you respond to a barrage of questions from someone who rarely speaks to you? Conversations start with “small talk” and progress to more serious topics once trust is established. In order to get the best answers to your questions, demonstrate you are listening. For accurate survey data, follow this simple formula:

  1. Ask a question.
  2. Listen to the answer.
  3. Ask a follow-up question.
  4. Listen to the answer.
  5. Resolve and respond.
  6. Repeat.

Start with a small problem — and follow up — to show you really are listening. When your employees trust you want to hear from them, their insights can be priceless.

Still not sure where to start? Take a page from former New York City Mayor Ed Koch and simply (and regularly) ask, “How’m I doin’?”