Be Prepared To Act Once You Ask

April 3, 2003 | By Beth N. Carvin

The whole area of "Asking Questions" bring up some terrific HR issues. There is so much to learn about asking good questions including legal ramifications, expressing interest in the answers, not having pre-conceived expectations and being prepared to act based upon the answers that you hear.

I'd like to briefly comment on the last point with a word of caution to companies that ask for employee feedback via surveys, 360 reviews, etc. While receiving employee feedback can be a valuable source of information to improve morale and reduce turnover, if you ASK, you must be prepared to ACT. You can do far more damage by asking questions and then ignoring (or not getting around to implementing) the ideas that are generated than if you never asked the questions in the first place. The employees feel that since you now are aware of the problem (thanks to them making the effort to share it with you) and you have chosen to ignore it, you must not CARE.

Although this is one of the worst things that you can do for employee morale, it happens all the time. Ironically, it happens at the exact time that you are making an effort to be a more caring organization--by asking the questions! So remember, it's not just what you ask, but what you do with what you hear. Be sure to earmark time to implement suggestions or hold a discussion meeting to decide which suggestions you will work on first. At minimum, let employees know if there's a valid reason why you are not able to address a specific issue. Although the item may seem trivial to you, if they have taken the time to share the concern, it probably holds some importance to them.

Finally, consider surveying departing employees via exit interviews as opposed to current employees. This will provide you the data you need, but allow you to rectify problem in your own space and time.