6 Ways to Find Out What Employees Really Want

How can you create a company culture that incorporates employees’ concerns, without making them uncomfortable when raising an issue?


If you manage employees, you want to maintain good relationships, not just for their sake, but for yours too. Happy employees will be more productive and more likely to stay with the company. However, your position on the totem pole can make it difficult for staff to approach you with problems. After all, no one wants to seem like a complainer!

Here are six ways you can find out what your staff really wants, and improve your company’s morale and productivity as a result.

1. Check in Frequently

Annual performance reviews are quickly becoming a thing of the past. You can’t preserve a good relationship with anyone by talking once a year — let alone your employees. That’s why many companies have realized it makes sense to have supervisors set up ongoing conversations with staff, for example checking in every 90 days rather than waiting until the end of the year for an official performance review.

Some companies find quarterly isn’t enough. Deloitte switched to a system of frequent, informal check-ins, while Halogen Software meets one-on-one with their team every four to twelve weeks. They even created software, Halogen 1:1 Exchange, which makes organizing and documenting these conversations simple for businesses of every size.

What employees really want

2. Amp Up Your Internal Communication

Research shows that around 70 percent of employees aren’t engaged at work. By opening a constant channel of communication between management and employees, internal engagement within a company can increase significantly. Internal communications can help increase engagement, but as you may have noticed, that same templated newsletter you’ve been sending out since 1986 doesn’t always do the trick.

Backstitch is a tool that bridges the communication gap between managers and their employees. It lets organizations create customizable intranet sites for communications, from newsletter writing to job training. It also allows employers to optimize engagement by alerting them to messages that are not being read. In other words, this service is a solution to overflowing and unread emails, as well as outdated intranet models. 15Five is a web-based example of this type of tool. The service improves internal communication by creating one-time polls and regular pulse checks, allowing employees to “high five” each other for a job well done, and integrating with all company Slack channels.

3. Little Questions, Big Results

A great way to stay on top of your staff’s satisfaction is to email them a weekly question about their well-being. That way, you can gauge overall work satisfaction on a regular basis, rather than waiting for complaints to bubble up to you. At the same time, your employees will know that they are valued within the company.

Tools such as TINYpulse Engage can make this process easy. The platform sends out a weekly survey and allows respondents to remain anonymous. Plus, they can upvote issues that matter the most to them. Sample questions include, “How much opportunity for professional growth do you have in this organization?” and “How would you rate our organization’s culture?” It’s one of several online platforms designed to measure and improve employee engagement.

4. Maintain Anonymity

“One of the reasons surveys are so prolific is they are an easy way to gain a lot of information,” says TINYpulse founder, David Niu, in Forbes. Yet people often won’t offer critical feedback if they know their response can be traced back to them. That’s why it’s crucial to let your employees know that they will remain anonymous when offering feedback.

Aspire Team, a consulting firm for small to medium-sized businesses, used surveys to get feedback from employees about how the company was running. The resulting data showed that, when asked whether they saw the whole company working together as a tem, many employees saw two different segments of the business working on two different teams — which management had not considered before the survey. This discovery highlighted the need to create an atmosphere that encouraged more collaboration.

If you don’t have the budget to pay for a tool like TINYpulse, SurveyMonkey is a free and effective alternative. For some great examples of survey questions, see here.

What employees really want5. Use Text Analytics Software

Another way to measure morale within your company is to search through the type of language used in internal communications, in order to get an overall sense of how satisfied — or dissatisfied — employees are. For example, Clarabridge, software that scans for keywords in customer mentions of a company, can also look for positive and negative terms throughout employee interactions. That way, you can gauge how your staff’s mindset is changing about their workplace over time.

6. Have Regular Get-Togethers

Despite all of these high-tech recommendations, it’s important to remember that face-to-face conversations are still valuable, particularly those outside the realm of official performance reviews and meetings. Keeping the atmosphere casual with regular, low-pressure meetings and get-together will allow people to speak freely about what motivates them. It doesn’t have to be complicated — a weekly lunch with your staff or a happy hour will do the trick. Either way, people will feel more comfortable voicing their concerns than they would in a boardroom.

As John Baldoni of the Harvard Business Review says, “Many executives fear being blindsided by what they do not know… Those executives who spend time out and about with their people have few such fears.”