Ask your staff these three questions: if they can’t answer them, you could be in trouble

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One of our clients, an amazing company that do great things, had a hidden problem inside their organisation: many of the staff felt frustrated and thought they weren’t being paid enough.

What made it worse, the leadership team were unaware of it, and because staff were not fully committed or engaged at work, and some were even thinking of leaving, it put the company’s big growth plans at risk.

This was a real surprise to our client and only came to light after they ran one of our culture change programmes.

When we gave them our findings, the client immediately ran a salary benchmarking exercise and shared the results with their staff

It turned out that actually pay was slightly above average for their location and sector.

When we looked deeper, it turned out that pay was not the issue. There were, in fact, two issues:

  1. Their staff were not feeling recognised or valued, and there was a confusion around how much they should expect to give and receive for their work, and
  2. House prices were high in the area, and many on the team couldn’t afford to get on the housing ladder.

To address the first issue, we worked with their staff and got them to think about where they were going, and what they were going to give in return.

Addressing this deeper social contract helped release more enthusiasm, motivation and commitment across the organisation.

And to address the second issue, the client bought a building, converted it into flats, and made it easier for their team members to buy one.

(As a by-product, the company had an asset which they made money on as well.*)

It was a happy ending all around – the company successfully moved forward on its plans, with fully engaged and happier staff.

*[When we first launched this blog we had some feedback about how this is relevant to people who work in academia or local authorities. It’s a fair comment. But that’s not really the purpose of the story, which is: what else can you do as an employer, and how could you repurpose what a business might be for? This is something we’re going to come back to in a future post.]

If you’re wondering whether you might have a similar hidden problem inside your organisation, there are three questions that you and your individual team members should be able to answer:

  1. What’s expected of me?
  2. How am I doing?
  3. Where am I going?

If you don’t know what’s expected of you by your bosses, it’s really hard to plan your day, prioritise your work, or feel in any kind of control.

If you know what’s expected but don’t know how you’re doing, you still lack some control. You could be unknowingly getting it wrong, or feeling unrecognised.

If you don’t know where you are going – in life, in your career – you can feel lost and without direction or purpose.

When you do know the answers to these questions you are far more likely to feel engaged in what you’re doing.

When both you and your boss/staff member understand the answers to these questions you’ll have clarity around the unwritten social contract between you and the organisation. You can work together to get you where you need to be.

As a boss, you feel more connected to your people. As a team member, you feel like your boss has your back. That’s good all round.

If you’re the boss and your staff can’t answer these questions, then money is the only sense they have of where they’re at, and if they don’t feel valued or rewarded enough by the money, their perceptions could be putting your organisation at risk.

The solution could just be a question of how you value and appreciate them.

As our client found out, frustration over pay is often a symptom of something deeper, and looking at that may reveal something interesting about the culture in your organisation.

If you start the conversation you’ll also be modelling a listening behaviour, and facilitating a process that allows your people to be heard. You may be surprised at the effect that has.

Good luck!

Not sure how to have a conversation like this?
These questions might be the only questions you need to ask as part of a performance review (PDR).

If you don’t know how to begin, you could say: “I read this really interesting blog post recently about 3 questions to ask your staff, and I thought, I don’t know if you can answer them, so could we sit down and have a cup of tea and a biscuit, and just talk them through.”

If you’d like to find out more about Culture Catalyst and what’s really going on in the culture of your organisation, please get in touch here.

Nikki at Propellernet has done the programme and says, “It was absolutely brilliant.”

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