How to Find Out What Employees Want

There are numerous white papers, books, magazine articles, blogs and survey results about how to find out what employees want. I’m not sure why when the answer is so simple:


You may say, “Silver, we HAVE asked them! We’ve done company-wide surveys, we’ve hired consultants to come in and assess what’s needed. Why, we even hired a psychic to read their minds!”

Okay, I made that last one up but you get my drift.

Gypsy fortune-teller uses a crystal ball to foretell the future

Here’s the problem. Your employees are not of one mind; they are individuals. Figuring out what they want as a group is like asking me, “Silver, what do women want?” Heck, I don’t know. I only know what I want. I’m not the spokesperson for my gender!

If you want to know what your employees want you have to ask them—one at a time! That’s what leadership is–knowing each team member—what motivates them, what their capabilities are and what they want. Many managers know more about their capital equipment than the individuals who operate these very same machines. They could tell you in great detail how to maintain the equipment and what might cause it to fail. But they couldn’t tell you what might cause their Lead Operator to leave for another job.

If you’re not meeting with your team members on an individual basis at least quarterly, you run the risk of losing them. Even if they don’t quit, their productivity will not be what it could be. I don’t care how many years a person has been on the job or how jaded they’ve become, knowing their direct supervisor is paying attention will pay dividends far beyond the time spent in one-on-one meetings.

Put down that survey. Stop reading that leadership book. Instead, start asking questions that show you’re interested. Listen closely.

Inside each of us is a person who wants to believe that what s/he does every day matters to someone. Be the kind of leader that says, in your words and in action, “It matters to me.”

Click here for a PDF of this blog