Inquisitive employees are without a doubt the cornerstone of an innovative and productive company. According to a Gallup study, disengaged employees cost U.S. businesses between USD 450 billion to 550 billion in lost productivity per year. In a similar vein, a survey by the Harris Poll found that 88% of participants believed that curious people have a higher likelihood to bring ideas to fruition at work.
However, only a measly 22% admitted to exercising curiosity at work while 60% blamed this on facing barriers to exercise curiosity at their workplace. These barriers include the top-down approach within organisations, lack of financial support to pursue new or uncertain ideas and limited time to think creatively as reasons. So if you think your employees aren’t asking enough “whys” and “what ifs”, it is a good time to review your workplace practices to create a more question-friendly environment.
Here are a few tips to get you started!
1. Tell them
If you want your employees to ask more questions, the most straightforward thing to do is to tell them so. Not everyone is on the same playing field of confidence and openness, so give them a little encouragement to ask questions. However, make sure you follow up on that invitation by acknowledging the questions and giving them a sincere and thoughtful response.
“A leader’s job is to have all the questions. You have to be incredibly comfortable looking like the dumbest person in the room.” - Jack Welch, former CEO of GE
In order to encourage your employees to ask questions, you have to be inquisitive as well. Showing your employees that not everyone has to be smart all the time will definitely take the pressure off your employees when it is their turn to ask questions. Nothing says encouragement like a boss who is willing to look silly and learn from others.
3. Make time and space for questions
Having a designated Q&A session at every meeting ensures that employees have the opportunity to raise any questions they may have had during the meeting. Take a page out of this tech behemoth’s handbook. In his article on Google’s work culture, Google's SVP of People Operations Laszlo Bock, mentioned that:
“We share everything we can. We have a weekly all-hands meeting called TGIF, hosted by our founders, Larry and Sergey. In the first 30 minutes, we review news and product launches from the past week, demo upcoming products, and celebrate wins. But the second 30 minutes is the part that matters most: Q&A.”
If you can’t squeeze in a physical Q&A session, take the session virtual. Softwares like Pigeonhole Live allow you to collect questions before the meeting, during, or after. This way employees can continuously voice their questions without worrying about being disruptive or not having enough time to think of questions. Questions can also be up-voted and ranked in order of popularity to make it easier for those addressing the questions.
Not everyone is comfortable raising questions publicly. While you can encourage and reward those who contribute publicly, you should always provide a platform for anonymous inputs. Anonymity can be an empowering tool especially for those who are shy or concerned if their questions would jeopardise their career. Incorporating Q&A software ensures that all employees have an equal opportunity at asking questions, be it identified or anonymous.
5. Encourage cross-department/team communication
Being immersed in a project for too long can erode one’s sense of curiosity. According to the Entrepreneur, getting other teams within your company to ask questions can help to highlight any shortcomings your team might have missed. At the same time, this offers the other team the opportunity to probe at a project that they are unfamiliar with, encouraging them to both work with unfamiliarity and expand their curiosity. In turn, exposure to different perspectives and ideas help to increase inquisitiveness and curiosity in your employees. Foster a friendly culture of cross-sharing and questioning to keep the curiosity up!
6. Act on the questions and suggestions
Actions speak louder than words. There is no better way to tell your employees that you appreciate and value their questions and suggestions than to act on it. Or simply take a page out of Google’s book and allocate a quarterly budget to a team of self-volunteered individuals to execute their suggestions from the suggestion box. If questions are never translated into concrete actions, neither you nor your employees will benefit from it. Work on empowering your employees to implement things so they are continuously wondering what else can be done differently.
Getting your employees to be active probers may not be an easy task, but with a little shift in attitude and culture, it can definitely happen!
Talk to us to find out more on how Pigeonhole Live can help in encouraging your employees to ask more questions.