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What Leaders Are Asking

Behind every question is an opportunity. We look behind the common questions -- uncovering the deeper meaning behind what leaders are asking right now.

What are you curious about?

Asking, “How do I improve company culture?” or “How do I engage employees?” is more complicated than it seems. Choose a question leaders are asking, discover the deeper meaning behind it, and get an expert answer. If you have a question not listed, ask us today.

Question 01

When Leaders Ask

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Where should I be paying attention to the voice of the employee, and how should I use that information?

They're Actually Asking

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How do I learn what's most important to employees, what's driving them to be productive and engaged, and what's distracting them from getting work done?

What to Do About It

  • Develop a listening strategy. Your listening strategy should be tied to higher-level objectives; otherwise, you might not do anything with the information you gather. Whether rolling out new values, adjusting organizational structure, changing performance management practices, etc., you should consider those pieces when deciding what to listen for.
  • Listen and be prepared to act. Listen and commit to sharing your discoveries and what you'll do with them. Set up a listening post, but also think through the implications of having one. Listen to foundational issues that align with the strategy outlined above when employees are overloaded at work, unclear on priorities or working on things they don't think they should be working on.

    8%Eight percent of employees strongly agree that their organization takes action on surveys.

  • Focus on the three ways to listen. You can use data you already have, quick pulse surveys and other conversations you have with employees. Among these three ways to gather data, you can survey employees, capture and aggregate conversations people are having with employees, use focus groups to get qualitative information about what's going on, or gather performance data such as safety incidents, absenteeism and whether people are using healthcare resources.
  • Communicate when action is taken. There has to be two-way communication. Employees value their voiced concerns being addressed.
pictograph of 1 person out of 4
Globally, one in four employees strongly agree their opinions count at work.
pictograph of less than 1 person out of 5
Fewer than one in five workers strongly agree that they receive meaningful feedback when they make a suggestion about improving performance.
Question 02

When Leaders Ask

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Why does it take so long to get things done around here?

They're Actually Asking

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We're trying to be more agile, but it doesn't seem to be working. How can we move more quickly?

What to Do About It

  • Focus on productivity, prioritization and collaboration by understanding the various goals at play. If team members must work together but have different goals, it can disrupt productivity and collaboration. Creating alignment on goals will give teams a north star for how the work should get done.
  • Practice cross-functional prioritization. Prioritize the important, big issues first so other priorities can fall into place and create alignment. To do this, take the following actions:
    • Do the strategy work. What will grow the business today and protect its future? Effective leadership teams think about next year, but they also think about five years from now.
    • Fix issues when they're small. Most leaders don't celebrate when someone calls out a small issue that could develop into a big issue, but you should. If your team feels psychologically safe to call out issues or problems, you have a greater chance of being able to address them before they become significant. Create a culture where people raise issues that can be solved collaboratively.
    • Make sure your teams understand their strengths. When team members know each other's strengths, they're able to have better conversations that lead to stronger decisions and clearer alignment. Teams that know and leverage their strengths have more insightful debates and reach higher-quality decisions.
84%
Over eight in 10 U.S. employees are matrixed to some extent.
22%
About two in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree that the leaders in their organization have a clear direction for the organization.
18%
Fewer than two in 10 American workers indicate their company is agile.
Question 03

When Leaders Ask

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Why aren't my employees coming back to the office?

They're Actually Asking

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Do I have to require everyone to come back to the office? Will I lose my people if I force on-site attendance?

What to Do About It

  • Embrace your responsibility. First, recognize that making these decisions is a new demand of leadership -- there is no precedent you can draw inspiration or insight from. You're charting new territory. In this new territory, the will of the employee is not consistent with the will of the employer. Deciding on office attendance policy will have unavoidable consequences. People might leave based on your choice. You must accept this. Recognize that it's not unfair for you to say, "Given the nature of our work, you have to be in the office." But at the same time, are your managers in the office? Are your leaders? When you're in the office, are you visible?
  • Individualize. You have to do three things: Decide what your office policy is, decide what your exception policy is, and individualize based on the needs of your team.
  • Give reasons over rules. It's better to give employees reasons to come into the office rather than rules. Look for ways to anchor your reasons within your organization's purpose, brand and culture, all of which will matter to employees during any major change. Within these higher-order issues, your reasons have to be purposeful and tangible. People come into the office to be mentored, have opportunities to learn and grow, and collaborate with teams. It has to be more than just "come in for free lunch."
  • Help people feel in control. If you're not specifying which days employees must be in the office, encourage your teams to decide together when they'll come in. This way, they'll be sure to get dedicated face time and a sense of control over their schedule.
Pictograph representing 52%
Half of remote-ready U.S. employees have a hybrid work arrangement.
Pictograph representing over half of employees
Just over half of employees say the office is the best place for collaborative work, while 15% say at home and 31% say there is no difference.
Question 04

When Leaders Ask

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How do we become more customer-oriented?

They're Actually Asking

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Why are my teams not cooperating with one another? How can I get my teams to be more focused on our customers?

What to Do About It

  • Tie values to work. Ensure your organization's values are connected to the work employees do every day, especially work tied to customers. If you cannot connect values to work, you may need to rethink your organization's values.
  • Engage your employees. Engaged employees create engaged customers, so make sure to implement an employee engagement strategy and measure progress regularly. Employee engagement and enthusiasm spread to your customers, creating loyal patrons who form emotional bonds with your organization.
  • Define roles and excellence. To improve cooperation, clearly indicate what each employee should do and then define excellence for that role. Ensure team members know each other's strengths and strive to develop them. The best leaders seek and share positive examples of collaboration and excellence.
Pictograph representing less than one in four
Fewer than one in four U.S. employees strongly agree that they can apply their organization's values to their work every day.
Pictograph representing one third
On average, a third of employees strongly agree that their associates are committed to doing quality work.

When leaders ask questions, they don't settle for surface-level answers. They discover the true meaning behind their questions and give workplace-changing advice. What are your questions?

Behind every question is an opportunity.

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