Over the last year, I asked and surveyed several thousand managers what questions were most meaningful to ask in one-on-one meetings with their direct reports. Here are the results . . .
1. Is there anything new we should start doing as a team?
This question is a great way to open a dialogue on what your employees want to start doing, but also will lead to learning what you should stop and start doing as their manager. Using “as a team” depersonalizes the question and makes it more likely that the employee will share their personal preferences.
2. Do you feel you are getting enough feedback and recognition for your work?
Given the fact that recognition has consistently been recognized as THE most powerful driver of employee engagement¹, this question should be near the top of your list for what to ask your direct reports. I have often said that “Feedback delayed is feedback denied.” As such, it is imperative that you regularly give recognition and performance feedback. Having conversations like these during one-on-ones ensures that employees learn, and act on, that very feedback and recognition.
You can also discover how often the employee prefers to receive that performance feedback.
3. What are the biggest wastes of time for you each week and how can I help eliminate these for you?
It is no surprise that people waste a lot of time at work. In fact, 89% of all employees admit to wasting time at work.² The three biggest time wasters in order are as follows:
- Workplace Interruptions which are what I have always referred to as “The Thief Of Workplace Productivity.” In fact, the average American worker is interrupted 60 times each day.¹
- Unproductive Meetings (1.55 hours wasted in these meetings each day²).
- Management of, and deleting spam.
4. Would you like more or less direction from me on your work?
Truth be told, no one wants to be known as a micro-manager and often employees aren’t entirely comfortable telling their manager to back off just a little. This question gives your direct reports an opportunity to give constructive and honest feedback to you without the fear of hurting feelings.
5. What could I do as a manager to make your job easier?
According to many workplace experts, most managers do not know about the lion’s share of workplace problems challenging their staff. In addition, even the problems the managers know about may not be the ones they should be focused on fixing. Bluntly put, this simple question gives employees the opportunity to make their manager less ignorant of these workplace obstacles and impediments.
6. Can you confidentially share whether you are having problems with any of our team members and if so, with whom?
While some employees may be reluctant to answer this question, others will take the time to share challenges they are experiencing with their coworkers. Most importantly, make sure you honor the confidentiality you promised when asking this question, extinguishing the problem without revealing the identity of the person who shared the feedback.
7. What, if anything, are you least clear about regarding our strategy and goals?
Researchers asked thousands of employees from companies with publicly-communicated strategies to choose the most important strategy or goal from a list of six choices. Only 29% of these employees chose to right strategy/goal from the list.² Think about that: almost 70% of your team has absolutely no idea what you or your company is trying to do. Thus, it is imperative that you talk about your goals and strategy in each and every one-on-one meeting you have with your direct reports.
8. How could we improve the ways in which our teams work together?
More than likely, your employees’ answers will contain invaluable feedback about the performance and cooperation of other teams at your company, which can and will improve: performance, productivity, and profitability at your organization.
9. Is there any aspect of your job on which you would like more help or training?
Any great workplace relationship stands on a foundation of managers helping employees get better, and employees helping managers be better. As such, asking this question provides a simple and healthy “ Help-me-help-you” angle for both the manager and employee.
10. On a scale of 1 to 10, how engaged do you feel about your work here?
While this is a great question in and of itself, the real value of the question is in the natural follow-up questions it leads to, such as:
- If the team member responds, “I would say an 8,” your first and natural follow-up question would be “What one change would get you to a 9 or 10 in the future?”
- What specifically do you find most engaging in your job?
- What specifically do you find most disengaging in your job?
Asking these valuable questions in one-on-one meetings with your direct reports will yield: better business outcomes, stronger employee engagement, and greater profitability for you, your team members, and your company.
1 HR Solutions, Inc. and myriad other employee engagement experts.
2 Hypercontext, 2022.