Recently, I posited that the reason employees make the decision to quit comes down to caring. Meaning, bosses simply don’t care enough about their employees’ human needs.
To bolster this counterintuitive idea of leadership care in every day practice, I caught up with Paul Warner, Ph.D., VP of Customer and Employee Experience Strategy at InMoment. Warner is an expert on behavioral analytics, organization and leadership development, employee engagement, and customer experience.
According to Warner, when it comes to developing an impactful employee experience, there are just three questions–caring questions, I may add–every company should be asking their employees (but probably aren’t). Those three questions are:
To what extent does your job fulfill or align with who you are as an individual?
If this company were a person, would you want to be friends with it?
What is this company doing to help you become a better person?
Why it matters
“These questions elevate the conversation above just the functional aspects of the employee experience, and they tap into the emotional factors that make people tick or if they’re not met — tick people off,” said Warner.
Yes, tick people off right out your front door to your competitor. But only three questions?And why these specific questions? That piqued my curiosity so I dug deeper and asked Warner to explain the rationale.
Here are the results of my interview with Dr. Paul Warner.
1. Share with my readers the basis behind each of the three questions that companies should ask for developing an optimum employee experience. Why those three in particular?
Warner: These three questions are designed as a conversation starter between employees and leaders. While not exhaustive, these questions evoke thoughtful discussions that get closer to the core of what an individual thinks, feels, and intends within his/her job role. Moreover, the stories that are shared in response to these questions can surface major themes to be explored in other listening campaigns (i.e. employee engagement feedback). When listening to employees it is important to separate questions that assess cognitive and emotional outcomes (e.g. commitment, belonging) in addition to the factors driving those outcomes. Most listening campaigns over-emphasize the job conditions, team dynamics, and relational elements of one’s experience and fail to tie them to overall measurements of engagement, which these three questions do.
2. How are the questions delivered?
Warner: Questions like these can be delivered via a listening platform in the form of a survey, or can be asked directly by managers in team or individual meetings. Because of the concerns over privacy and anonymity whenever an organization listens to employees, it is critical that respondents are given the opportunity to share their individual story with a strong technology platform that can use advanced text analytics to surface insights to leaders.
3. What are practical ways firms can utilize each of these questions to foster a caring environment that leads to a healthy and robust employee experience?
Warner: A large north american retailer uses questions like these in both their management coaching meetings and as part of quarterly employee listening campaigns. Leaders are trained on how to have coaching and development sessions with each of their associates and have been given tools to facilitate effective discussions. Often, these questions facilitate rich group discussions and can be strategically employed during staff meetings or team building sessions. They help leaders to understand major themes around what is lacking in the employee experience and allows the organization to gain a sense of the overall sentiment of the employee population.
4. Who is ultimately responsible for designing a great employee experience (EX)?
Warner: While employee experience has historically been delegated to HR functions, it is ultimately the responsibility of people managers to create the right employee experience. Of course, an organization’s culture is greatly influenced by its key leaders; EX happens in the day-to-day where an individual leader can make or break the experience.
5. What are the “emotional factors” you speak of that make people either tick or get ticked off? Are there specific behaviors from leaders that lend to employees feeling either way? What are they?
Warner: The emotional factors are those that fulfill specific psychological and emotional needs. For example, self determination theory suggests that people are motivated to act in a certain way if they feel a sense of competence, autonomy, and relatedness. An organization can provide the best working environment, perks, and benefits (functional needs), but if the leadership style does not allow people the ability to make decisions in their role or show assertiveness, the end result is a loss of autonomy (an emotional need).
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