How much do you really know about your employees’ professional goals? With the fast pace of today’s business world, many managers opt for a simple “How are you doing/how’s the workload going” weekly, biweekly or even monthly check in. Even if you’ve cultivated an open door policy, encouraging employees to come to you with concerns, taking an active interest in their professional development is one of the keys that will set you apart as an effective manager.
Showing an interest in your employee’s advancement demonstrates their value to the company and fosters loyalty. A 2015 survey found that managers who know their employees strengths are 71% more likely to have employees who are engaged and energized. Having a better idea of each of your employee’s strengths will also help you to maximize their potential and assign tasks that best fit their skills. Employees who have strengths discussions with their managers are 78% more likely to feel their work is valued and appreciated.
In fact, taking time to help your employees develop professionally is not only beneficial but expected. A Deloitte survey found that two-thirds of millennial employees believe it’s their manager’s responsibility to provide them with development opportunities.
It’s important that employees take ownership of their professional development, but as a manager you can provide guidance and help give them direction. Your employees may have some broad long term goals in mind, like attaining a management position, but they may need help developing short term goals that will lead them to these objectives. Asking the right questions can help you to both inspire and lead your employees in a constructive dialogue about their professional development.
Learn how to ask the right questions
Different types of questions can be used to get the answers you’re looking for or inspire deeper reflection. Yes or no questions can help you get a straight answer. In some instances leaving your questions too open may make it too easy for employees to give a neutral response. This can be especially difficult when you want to gauge their current level of engagement and the impact of your management decisions. For example, if you want to find out whether the type of assignments you’ve been giving them have them fully engaged, you may need to ask a yes or no question to get a direct answer.
Open-ended questions allow you to glean further information and encourage more thoughtful responses. This is the best type of question to use when you want to lead your employees to a deeper reflection about their professional goals.
Questions to inspire and motivate
1. Encourage employees to think deeply/objectively about their current situation.
When coming up with a professional development plan, it may be challenging for your employees to create goals if they’re not fully aware of their strengths and interests in the workplace. Use these examples to get them thinking:
- What’s your favorite/least favorite part of your job?
- What project have you enjoyed working on most?
- What other strengths or skills do you have that you feel are not being utilized?
- What would others on the team be most likely to come to you for help on?
- What do you like to do in your free time?
2. Help lead them to a more specific, ambitious and attainable set of aspirations.
- Which new responsibilities would you like to take on in the next few years?
- Which skills would you need to refine to help you achieve these goals?
- What kind of projects/assignments would you like to be involved in more?
3. Give them food for thought.
- If you were in charge of the next project what would you do differently?
- What do you see as our team’s greatest strength/weakness?
4. Help them to align their goals with company objectives.
- In which projects/areas do you think your skills would add the most value?
- If in five years you could have anyone’s job in the company whose would it be?
5. To understand how you can help, ask them:
- What tools/resources help you the most in your daily work? What’s missing?
- What can I do to help you achieve these goals?