Nine Questions That Uncover the Most Surprising Feedback from Employees

This article was submitted by Claire Lew and originally appeared on Know Your Company’s Blog. It has been republished with permission and does not constitute the views or opinions of Skillshare.

Want to learn more from Claire Lew? Check out her new class, Leadership Essentials: How to Give & Get Honest Feedback at Work, now on Skillshare!


I’m sharing three years-worth of findings, based on data from 15,000+ employees in 25 countries through Know Your Company, on the best questions to ask employees for feedback.

When’s the last time you had a one-on-one or performance review with an employee… and you learned something completely new?

Don’t think too hard :-) If you’re like most CEOs and managers, getting new, surprising insights from employees doesn’t happen very often. Oftentimes, when we’re asking for honest feedback, we simply receive a confirmation of what we want to hear.

We learn, “Oh okay, it seems like everything is fine” or “I already knew that was an issue, so it’s all good there.”

But what about the stuff you don’t know? How do you discern if an employee has an idea to improve the company that she hasn’t brought up yet? How do you figure out if an employee is frustrated with her manager? Or, how can you tell if she’s thinking about leaving?

That’s where we at Know Your Company come in. We’ve spent the past three years researching, writing and refining hundreds of questions across almost 300 companies with 15,000 employees+ in 25 countries.

From our 312+Know Your Company questions, below are the best nine that we’ve found to yield the most interesting insights for companies.

1. “Are you afraid of anything at work?”

Our findings: 67% of employees said, “Yes, I’m afraid of something at work” (753 employees answered this across 89 companies) when asked through Know Your Company. This result caught me off guard (almost 70% of employees are afraid of something at work!) but it goes to show the importance of showing vulnerability as a leader and digging deep to uncover the areas of the company (or people in the company) that employees may feel intimidated by.

2. Have you seen something recently and thought to yourself ‘I wish we’d done that’?

Our findings: 75% of employees said, “Yes, I’ve seen something recently, and thought to myself, ‘I wish we’d done that’” (1,338 employees answered this across 221 companies) when asked through Know Your Company. Clearly, employees are noticing what competitors are doing and may have ideas for you to improve the business. Asking this question helps bring to light what those ideas are.

3.  Is there something we should measure in the company that we currently don’t?

Our findings: 78% of employees said, “Yes, there’s something we should measure in the company that we currently don’t” (286 employees answered this across 78 companies) when asked through Know Your Company. This reveals a need to more closely examine the metrics we use to run our businesses, and ask employees if there’s anything not being measured that should be.

4.  Is there any part of the company you wish you were able to interact with more?

Our findings: 81% of employees said, “Yes, there’s a part of the company I wish I were able to interact with more” (507 employees answered this across 72 companies) when asked through Know Your Company. An overwhelming majority of the employees we surveyed feel silo-ed. By asking this question, you’ll learn exactly which parts of the company they’d like more interaction with, be it a specific department or office.

5. Are there any benefits we don’t offer that you’d like to see us offer?

Our findings: 76% said “Yes, there are benefits we don’t offer that I’d like to see us offer” (1,807 employees answered this across 179 companies) when asked through Know Your Company. You may be thinking, “Ugh, of course most of my employees want more benefits”… However, what’s most revealing with this question is which benefits your employees are looking for. Many of the companies who asked this specific question have added key benefits that have helped retain employees, or even gotten rid of benefits no one is using. You never know unless you ask.

6.  Is there an area outside your current role where you feel you could be contributing?

Our findings: 76% of employees said, “Yes, there’s an area outside my current role where I feel I could be contributing” (814 employees answered this across 135 companies) when asked through Know Your Company. This result is surprising, considering that most managers feel their employees are slammed and are already at capacity. Thus, this question all the more important to ask: You’ll learn very tactically where your employees want to contribute more to help push your business even further.

7. Is there anyone at the company you wish you could apprentice under for a few weeks?

Our findings: 92% of employees said, “Yes, there’s someone at the company I wish I could apprentice under for a few weeks” (2,217 employees answered across 190 companies) when asked through Know Your Company. This shows how much employees crave learning and developing their skills — especially from others within the company. Asking this question will expose to you if this is similarly the case within your own company.

8. Have you seen someone here do great work that’s gone unnoticed?

Our findings: 76% of employees said, “Yes, I’ve seen someone here do great work that’s gone unnoticed” (1,485 employees answered across 209 companies) when asked through Know Your Company. Based off this data, it’s highly-likely that employees in your company may feel under-appreciated. The answers to this question can help you discover which exact projects or areas of the company that employees would like more gratitude and recognition shown in.

9. Are there things you don’t know about the company that you feel you should know?

Our findings: 55% of employees said “Yes, there are things I don’t know about in my company that I feel like I should know” (3,197 employees answered this across 702 companies) when asked through Know Your Company. Employees want to know more about the company — the company’s vision, people’s roles, why certain policies exist, etc. When you ask this question, you quickly get to the core of what those things are.

 

How many of these 9 questions are you asking in your own company? The next time you go grab coffee with an employee or have a quarterly one-on-one, consider asking one (or all!) of these questions. I guarantee you’ll learn at least one insight that is completely new and surprising.