Promote innovation and growth in your organization by fostering curiosity in your team. Discover 6 effective strategies for creating a more inquisitive team and unlocking their full potential in this article. Whether you're leading a small team or managing a large organization, these practical tips can help you drive engagement, creativity, and productivity.
How to promote engagement and curiosity with your team
Cost of disengaged employees
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 $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 exercising curiosity at their workplace. These barriers include the top-down approach within organizations, 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!
Strategies for fostering engagement and curiosity
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.
For example, a hospital unit manager observes that during staff meetings, only a few nurses actively participate in discussions. To foster increased engagement, the manager begins each meeting by explicitly inviting everyone to ask questions and share their ideas.
During a patient care protocol discussion, a reserved nurse raises concerns about medication administration. The manager responds thoughtfully, acknowledging the issue and considering improvements. This builds confidence and empowers all team members to contribute to ongoing patient care improvement.
2. Lead by example
“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
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 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.
Suppose that a software company's CTO notices that during team meetings, employees are hesitant to ask questions or seek clarification on complex topics. To foster an open culture of inquiry, the CTO starts leading by example.
During a software development presentation, the CTO's willingness to openly ask even basic questions about the methodology creates a relaxed atmosphere. This encourages employees to ask their own questions and promotes a culture of continuous learning and collaboration.
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.
To illustrate, the store manager of a large retail chain recognizes the importance of open communication and decides to allocate time for questions during every team meeting.
Emulating Google's TGIF meeting, the manager designates the final 15 minutes of each meeting for a Q&A session where employees can raise concerns about store operations, customer service, or inventory management. This guarantees employees a designated platform to voice their queries.
If fitting a traditional Q&A session into your meeting is difficult, consider using a virtual format. Tools like Pigeonhole Live enable you to gather questions before, during, or after the meeting. This approach lets employees voice their concerns without feeling disrupted or rushed. Additionally, participants can upvote questions, helping prioritize the most relevant topics for discussion.
4. Use anonymity to your advantage
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 input. Anonymity can be an empowering tool, especially for those who are shy or concerned that their questions would jeopardize their career. Incorporating Q&A software ensures that all employees have an equal opportunity at asking questions, be they identified or anonymous.
For example, a bank's compliance department holds meetings to discuss financial regulations and policies. The head acknowledges employees' reluctance to raise concerns publicly and introduces Pigeonhole Live for both named and anonymous submissions, ensuring comfortable participation from all. This approach enables the compliance team to effectively address challenges and adhere to regulations.
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 a project that they are unfamiliar with, encouraging them to both works with unfamiliarity and expand their curiosity.
In turn, exposure to different perspectives and ideas helps to increase the inquisitiveness and curiosity of your employees. Foster a friendly culture of cross-sharing and questioning to keep the curiosity up!
To promote cross-department communication in a tech company, for instance, the development team could present a new product feature to the marketing and sales teams. This could help both teams understand the product better and lead to a more successful product launch, while increasing team engagement and curiosity.
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 them.
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 them. Work on empowering your employees to implement things so they are continuously wondering what else can be done differently.
To illustrate, a sales associate suggests a new product line for a retail store after noting customer demand. The manager allocates a budget to research the idea and implements it, leading to increased sales and customer satisfaction. This fosters a culture of innovation and encourages other employees to contribute ideas.
Foster curiosity and engagement for innovation and growth
Promoting curiosity and engagement in your team can drive innovation and growth for your organization. Getting your employees to be active probers may not be an easy task, but with a little shift in attitude and culture, it can happen! By implementing these 6 effective strategies, you can create a more inquisitive team that is engaged, creative, and productive. Whether you're leading a small team or managing a large organization, these practical tips can help you foster a culture of innovation and success.