Increase productivity and decrease turnover? Ask employees this strange question

Anyone who has had the pleasure of hiring and building teams knows it can be anything but fun. Finding the needle in the haystack is tedious, time-consuming and sometimes mind-numbing. One bad hire can be costly and in rare cases even cost your business. So once you’ve found the perfect candidate, make sure they stay successful even if that’s not their plan in the end.

Just ask a basic question you’re probably already asking: What are their career goals? But add a small adjustment that can make a big difference.

Instead of setting career goals for new hires in the usual way, ask what they would eventually like to do, even if it has nothing to do with their new position or employer. With this one minor caveat, it can completely change the response you receive and the trajectory of your new hire’s career with your organization. Of course it also gives you the tools you need develop an effective career path for employees that motivates employees and prepares them for success.

While many are reluctant to ask for fear of what the answer might be, the reality is that not every new hire aspires to do a particular job or stay with a particular company for the rest of their lives. As much as employers like to think differently, it’s an unrealistic assumption that can be harmful. Employees are left to feign interest to appease their new employer. And employers are groping in the dark, unable to create a career that the employee doesn’t want to leave.

Here are five big reasons to ask this one little question:

1. It ensures open communication
It opens the door to honesty communications employee† By starting on this kind of foundation, you’re laying the foundation for a positive workplace relationship in which an employee feels comfortable sharing their honest thoughts, because they know you can hear them well. It may start with something as simple as asking a question about their aspirations, goals, and passions, but it fosters a relationship where employees feel comfortable talking more openly and honestly with their manager.

2. It helps employees feel supported
People often feel that their employer would not support them if they knew what their goals were. So they keep their goals close to their chest, which keeps their employer at bay — and at bay. Instead, when asked what their goals are in relation to how an employer can help them achieve those goals, they feel supported.

3. It Increases Workplace Satisfaction
In 1973 Harvard published an article titled “Why employees stay?which, decades later, is still true. The study concluded that the key elements of job satisfaction are achievement, recognition, responsibility and growth opportunities.

When people feel the job is tailored to help them get where they want to be, they are happier in the role. They feel supported, heard and understood. And by understanding where an employee wants to be, employers can give them the responsibilities and opportunities to get there. In return, it makes them feel happier in their role, even if it’s not necessarily where they want to be.

4. It increases productivity
If people see that what they are doing can help them get where they want to be, they will be more motivated and, by extension, more productive. It is the mutually beneficial process of turning an employee’s goal into an employer’s goal. It helps you better understand, recognize and assign tasks and projects, giving staff members the experiences that lead them on the path to where they want to go.

5. It creates a positive company culture
Overall, it makes for a positive work environment that people enjoy being in because they feel it’s a step towards what they ultimately want to do – even if that’s not something that exists within that company.

Managers often ask what a person’s goals are, but they ask in relation to that particular organization. Ask what someone in general really wants to do. This gives you the tools to better understand them, identify them for opportunities, and put them on success–which, as an employer, also prepares your organization for success.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not’s.

Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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