Have You Taken Your Employees’ Temperature Lately?

December 3rd, 2010 by Rob Berman Leave a reply »

Maybe illphoto © 2008 Desi | more info (via: Wylio)
When I speak to employees at companies I like to ask two questions to get a sense of what is going on at the company.  I generally hand them a slip of paper for them to complete.  It is one sheet and should take 10 minutes or less to complete.  Here is what I ask:

Name: ___________________

ITEMS THAT SHOULD STAY THE SAME

(If you are allowed to keep three things exactly the same at (fill in company name) what would they be?)

1.

2.

3.

ITEMS THAT SHOULD CHANGE

(If you are allowed to change three things at (fill in company name) what would they be?)

1.

2.

3.

What Are the Findings?

I have found out so much about a company in minutes.  I am much better prepared to speak with the owner or senior managers after completing this simple exercise.  You might ask, “Why is that the case?”  The answer is simple — I am not guessing at employee feelings or thoughts.  I know exactly what they like about the company and what they want to change.

Now, we have the basis for a dialogue about how to improve the company.  I have experienced as an employee and as a consultant an interesting phenomenon.  Management will believe the consultant rather than the employees because they are paying the consultant for answers.  Often, I can make the same exact point as an employee has previously made.  The difference is that Management is now listening.  The technique can also be used with the owner of the company or with senior managers as well.  You can  even compare the answers between the groups.  Give this technique a try and let me know how it works for you.

The Takeaway

Employees are smart people.  Ask them for help in evaluating different scenarios and don’t dismiss their ideas out of hand without a fair hearing.  You are paying them for ideas so get your money’s worth.

That is what is on my mind.  How about you?  Please comment below.

  1. Are you willing to give this technique a try?
  2. Have you ever experienced the situation where a consultant must know the answers?
  3. How would you improve this technique?

If you would like to contact me, you may do so by visiting my LinkedIn page, following me on Twitter,  or e-mailing me at rcberman2 (at) yahoo.com.

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17 comments

  1. Agree with you completely, as you know. It’s amazing that, as you say, “management will believe the consultant rather than the employees because they are paying the consultant for answers”.

    When managment hire you as a consultant to they normally allow you to ask questions to their employees? And are all employees prepared to answer questions without being anonymous?

    • Rob Berman says:

      Catarina:

      In my experience I have always been able to speak to the employees. It is part of the package. If the company wants a full picture they need to let me access the employees.

      Rob

      • Correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t you a marketing consultant?

        • Rob Berman says:

          Catarina:

          I consult for businesses. Most of the work in the couple of years has been Marketing related. However, to get to business solutions there are many paths that can be taken. Depending on the situation I might use the technique I explained in the post.

          Rob

  2. Great content here Rob. Also sad, but true, that employers often don’t realize that their biggest asset is their employees. Hence the change of name from “Personnel” to “Human Resources” many years ago. In a past life BC (before children) I worked in “personnel” that then became “Human Resources”. However, simply changing the name isn’t enough. Understanding and appreciating the reason behind the name change is what matters.

    I use a marketing questionnaire to do something similar to what Dennis describes. It is quite in depth and actually helps the business owner (and me) gain a better understanding of exactly where he/she is currently with regards to his/her marketing, and where he/she wants to be. The questionnaire includes questions about what they are currently doing and how it is working, etc.

    • Rob Berman says:

      Julie:

      I like the idea of the questionnaire to guide the discussion. I ask mine verbally as part of an interview. Do you ask the questions or do you have the client complete it for you?

      Thanks,

      Rob

  3. Rob, I’m thinking this would also work in non-corporate settings such as volunteer groups in which conflict has arisen. Why not just ask everyone what they’d like to see changed and what they’re happy to have remain before beginning to mediate? It would save so much time! Thanks for the neat tool.

  4. Employees long to give and receive feedback. Just asking them these questions is a great morale booster.

  5. Rob, this is very similar to a design questionaire I share with potetial clients when I first meet with them, so this is very interesting. For me it’s more to judge if this person is serious about design. I really like the idea of “what would you change and what would you keep the same”. That just gave me some ideas. So thank you! And thank you for putting your two cents in over at my blog.

  6. Susan Oakes says:

    Great idea Rob and as you said it takes out the guesswork. Having worked with many consultants when I was in marketing, rarely did they speak to employees. The last time was when we the management team were going to work on our overall strategy for the region and we actually had to tell the consultants to go back and get input from employees.

  7. Rob. This is a simply excellent post. I don’t have any employees of my own, but all I do all day long is ask my clients questions. When they answer them with thought and honesty, they experience great “aha” moments that are catalysts for progress. What’s more is that no one is telling them how to feel or what they should do. They come up with solutions on their own simply be answering questions.

    I love that the first thing you do is approach the employees with their like / dislikes. This also validates them that their opinion matters. Everyone from the smallest child to a grown adults wants to be heard and feel important.
    Great post!

    • Rob Berman says:

      Keyuri:

      Thanks so much for the high praise. I am starting on a series of posts about employees, knowing your firm and maximizing your opportunities. This is the first one.

      Rob

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