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Find Out What Employees Are Really Thinking But Not Saying

Posted On: October 19, 2015

You’ve likely done your due diligence and are seeking out your employees’ perspective by way of onsite observations and riding along on sales calls. There’s also the ever-important annual survey to learn how employees are assessing their job, the new initiative, the product launch, the meeting, the corporate social responsibility event, the annual picnic and other significant elements of their work experience.

The data gathered is no doubt useful and interesting but to really transform your company culture it is imperative to dive deeper so you can grow more successful. Consider revising your interactions with your employees (in person or in surveys) to get at the heart of what is really working (and what may not be) in your sales team. The data and feedback here can help you determine the best modes of engaging your employees through rewards or recognition.

Break the Barrier

When a CEO, president or VP integrates into the community of their sales team there is a certain amount of hesitation to “be yourself” among employees. Most people will tend to be on their best behavior when faced with working in the presence of a superior. Opt instead to break that barrier by gathering insight into the culture by sending in someone else to learn about the day-to-day work environment.

Alternatively some CEOs and VP of Sales commit to working one day “in the trenches” of their companies so they can get some perspective on what it is like to be one of their own employees. If it is a CEO of a retail store, they’ll spend the day at the retail checkout counter, they stack boxes, they answer customer service calls. It isn’t a perfect model but it lessens the chance that employees will only tell them what they want to hear on a “Management Observation Day” that essentially preps everyone to be on their best behavior.

Recreate Your Survey

Yes, ask all the important questions with ratings and fill-in-the-blank questions. Be sure to create an anonymous survey (that has the option for people to share their names and contact information at the end if they wish).

Surveys need a refresh. Consider asking one or two unexpected questions. Help bring some humanity (and humor?) to typically stale business survey questions with questions like:

  • What Disney movie most represents the culture of this company?
    • Snow White (evil ruler, overworked minions)
    • The Incredibles (a family of superheroes)
    • Finding Nemo (bizarre whirlwind of adventure)
  • How would you suggest our company use a windfall profit?
    • Throw a huge party for employees on a yacht
    • Buy backpacks filled with school supplies for every kid in the county
    • Redesign the office and upgrade our computers, phones and tablets
  • If you had to choose a song to describe the leadership team at our company, which would you choose?
    • Queen’s “Under Pressure”
    • P!nk’s “So What”
    • The Beatles “Come Together”
  • What animal best describes your company?
    • Prairie Dog (very social, community-oriented, easily distracted)
    • Cheetah (sophisticated, fast, skilled hunter)
    • Three-toed Sloth (hard to find, sleeps 20 hours a day)
  • If you could, where might you send the entire company on vacation together?
    • Warm, sunny beach
    • Hiking in the mountains
    • European wine tasting tour

No matter how many times you ask employees how they rate their satisfaction with their company a number from 1 to 5 won’t be as a compelling an answer as the song they might choose to describe the leadership team.

Depending on the kind of information you gather from in-person/onsite work and a refreshed survey you can begin to better recognize and reward staff. Do most people suggest sending the entire company on a beach vacation? Perhaps a travel incentive to a Caribbean destination is in store. Or maybe the song that best describes the leadership team is David Bowie’s “Under Pressure” which could indicate you might want to revise how you recognize team members from the C-suite down to the interns.

Rewards and recognition need to match the needs and desires of your employees in order to be the most effective tools of engagement. Make it easy for your employees to share what they’re really thinking so you can easily incentivize for the best results.