12 Questions to (Honestly) Ask Your Employees – Week 3

Employee engagement surveys – most people have taken them at one point or another. But all too often, the first thought that comes to mind for employees answering the questions goes something like “corporate is only acting like they care, but no one will actually listen to me.” And maybe, just maybe, these employees are on to something. Many companies focus more on the metric itself than what the metric represents. Take for a moment a hypothetical situation where a certain company seeks to have a 80 percent satisfaction goal after all of the surveys are completed. They are successful in reaching this number, so they congratulate themselves then go on about business as usual.

But wait just a moment. Can you spot what the company is doing wrong?

They found a metric they liked, and declared the battle “won.” But why didn’t they examine the missing 20 percent? Or the reasons that each employee described in their survey? Within those hundreds of surveys, employees shared their opinions and how they felt about their job – for better or for worse. Yet the company saw the much coveted “80” number and quit looking. That’s because, as we pointed out above, they were focusing on the wrong part of the survey results.

They focused more on the metric than what the metric represented.

So, what then is the better way? Pay attention to the pain-points that your employees deal with and describe in their results. Don’t simply accept an 80 percent satisfaction rating. Ask yourself why it wasn’t 100 percent satisfaction, and then dig deeper to uncover and solve the problems keeping you from a perfect score. When we do this, we will understand that even the best surveys are only effective when properly harnessed. An expertly crafted survey misinterpreted is counterproductive to a company and will only perpetuate its problems into the future since no solutions are being implemented.

Be honest when you ask these questions, and expect nothing less than honest responses in return.

Over the years, Gallup has created a list of employee satisfaction questions that dial in on the top 12 most important areas to top-performing employees. These questions are referred to by Gallup as the Q12, and outlined and discussed in detail in their book titled First, Break All The Rules. I highly recommend looking up this book, as it has proved to be extremely insightful. But now, without further ado – the top 12 questions we should ask our employees:

  1. I know what is expected of me at work.
  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  7. At work, my opinions seem to count.
  8. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
  9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  10. I have a best friend at work.
  11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

If your employees answer “yes” to all of these questions, then you can be confident that your business is treating its employees correctly. Be open, be honest, and accept that all the answers will most likely not be all “yes” – just don’t stop there. Find the reasons for each answer, and act accordingly to remedy the pain points.


Clifton, Don. (2010). First, Break All The Rules. New York, NY: Gallup Press.

What did you think? Leave some feedback! :)

10 thoughts on “12 Questions to (Honestly) Ask Your Employees – Week 3

  1. A very valid list of questions to be asking employees! My boss, who’s an engineer and never planned on being a boss of anyone, recently took on trying to do a similar “checklist” with me. It is very much appreciated, but there are times where it does slightly get on my nerves just because he’s thanking me for doing one of the smallest aspects of my job. I know most would probably love to hear any praise from their boss, but when you’re in my position and very rarely receive criticism from your boss, praise for the simplest of things just gets irritating.

    On the flip-side, though, I do feel that more businesses and companies need to take it upon themselves to praise their employees. Actually have discussions with them and try to figure out ways to make improvements so that the workplace environment can improve, too.

  2. I have seen surveys like this before. The question that comes to mind is what the final results of the survey should have as a result. Is it to truly hope for employee satisfaction or is it to find the honest employees to weed out the undesirable attitudes for a manager or supervisor? One thing I think most companies should concentrate on is appreciating an employee who cares. Recognize the ones who truly wants the company to succeed and not just there to punch in their 8 hours. Sometimes a pat on the back and a thank you for a job well done can go a long way to employee satisfaction.


  3. I have to say I do prefer a survey like this, versus a multi-question, redundant survey, where it tends to dig for psychological factors but also has an overall tone that might be offensive to individuals who are taking the survey; not to mention, the surveys tend to be are extremely long. It seems practical to check in with employees with short reviews, or use initial surveys when hiring – but nothing that is too long. A basic check-in (periodically) can give all that might be needed for initial and follow-up needs. Regarding the Q12 list from Gallop – I especially like question #2: I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right. Actually, I do like most of the questions in this review. They did a great job with this list. I could utilized this type of format – without reservation. I agree with the understanding that in using this list – we are asking for straightforward and honest answers. This ideology creates a completely different platform to work from – one that may take time for many industry leaders to adopt.

  4. Hello Parker,

    We all have taken company surveys and I agree with the downsides you mentioned. What about that 20% and those that responded with issues? Companies need to spend more time if they are going to give employee surveys if they want to change the culture in an overall direction. I do like the questions they ask – keeping it simple. Questions 4, 7 and 11 stood out to me as there needs to be more of. An annual review when that is about the only time you are getting a lot of feedback does not cut it. Keeping employee moral up is huge. Employees need to be recognized weekly know that their opinion counts. Also I feel like the employer needs to work with their employees to help guide and progress them to new levels. That way the company benefits overall. I am a big fan of servant leadership where this happens. It seems like over the past 8 years this type of leadership has just taken on but I am sure it is progressing slowly. I look forward to next week’s reflection.

  5. Hello Parker,

    I agree that if companies are going to give employees surveys they need to spend more time finding and determining the core (20%). Only in this way will they see gains in employee satisfaction. I liked the fact that they asked simple questions. Questions 4, 7 and 11 stood out to me. Annual reviews do not cut it. Employees need feedback more often and as a result the morale will stay high. I feel that servant leadership is the way to go. I first started hearing about this 8 years ago. I do not think is has progressed into too many areas of management but hope eventually it does. I look forward to next weeks read.

  6. To me the 12 questions are more examples of focusing on a metric vs. what it represents. I see surveys as a flawed strategy. I think there are better metrics like: Do (good) employees stay? Do employees leave with more skills than they came with? Do they leave and do something different that your company can’t offer them (e.g., getting a degree, becoming a programmer). My other reason to “dump the survey” is management can never hide/eliminate the power vacuum. Employees are at the whim of the employer/boss and they know it. Expecting someone on the wrong side of power to be honest and forthright to me is unreasonable, unless the goal is to hear what you want to hear.

  7. Great blog post! I loved the entire thing! I do have a problem with those questionnaires. I work at a local community college, I’m an adjunct instructor. My students have to take a class evaluation survey at the end of the semester for every class they take. This is an automated survey with basic teacher/student questions. The problem I have with this survey is “Who actually reads these” and “Do the higher ups actually pay attention to the responses”. My guess is that they focus on the numbers as well. I know students tell me that they left bad reviews and yet what happens with that? Your blog post was very informative!

  8. Austin great blog! I actually just took a survey at my present job and what I found is the culture,the morale, the fear of what the employer would say if they were honest about what they really felt played a role in the survey. Basically it was difficult for the employees to be truthful to the company. I believe in most company’s that the 80% would be in questions.Like myself I am more inclined to be 100% honest because of my approaching retirement, spiritually, and where I am financially. Other people however don’t have that luxury that they will give the company an accurate answer.

    Great Post!

  9. I enjoyed your blog post, and am excited to see another usage of the Q12 concept. I have encountered this concept in some of my organizational behavior readings, and think these questions establish a great framework for engaging employees in their personal and professional goals – for getting to the “heart” of the individual. As we know, resonating with employees comes from empowering their core values and beliefs in relation to an organization. I also agree that focusing on the 20% dissatisfaction rate is significant – it is important that management consider where these issues originate in their organization, and which factors could be influencing their employees to respond in this way. Through a close analysis, management can determine if these are real concerns that should be addressed, or if they reflect a discord between an individual’s beliefs and the beliefs of the organization. It can help an organization attract and retain the best candidates for the job, which is their most valuable resource.

  10. Austin, this post made me think again about my work environment and I must say answered yes to the majority of the questions. But I agree that the “no” answer get overlooked depending on the environment of company. The large the company and the more critical the financial state, then less is focused on how someone feels. It is about getting our heads above water and trying to swim again. But they never realized that the people are floating on life preservers and fighting for their lives under the stress. I like the show Undercover Boss because it is a first had survey of the company and what is really happening behind the scenes. All companies should take inventory of their human capital for a better return on their investment.

Leave a Reply

Loading Facebook Comments ...