Understanding and using listening acknowledgments often is a necessary skill in gaining information. To be a good listener, sometimes you have to be a good talker and know what questions to ask or statements to make to elicit responses from employees. Conversely, you must be a good listener when someone else is speaking to fully understand the gist of the message and to formulate additional questions and responses to maintain rapport and gain information.
Knowing which questions to get feedback starts with several primary listening skills. Better listening equates to asking better questions, which in turn invites better responses from employees. The first step in effective listening is to commit to giving the employee your full attention – great eye contact, stop whatever else you are doing and give the employee your undivided attention.
Prove respect to the employee by actively engaging them in the conversation and speak at approximately their same energy level. Be willing to follow their views and line of thinking, at least temporarily. Clarify any confusion or misunderstandings you may have. If you are unsure of the meaning of what the employee is suggesting, ask for clarification.
Continue to confirm back to the employee that you are listening, all the while building rapport through your use of verbal and nonverbal cues.
Types of Questions and Statements
Knowing the most effective questions to ask employees to get feedback involves using a variety of questions and statements that help guide the employee.
Open-Ended Questions and Statements
The open-ended question or statement invites the person to present their point of view or to expand on their line of thinking. It affords you an opportunity to learn more about the employee and what they are thinking and feeling at that moment, which could prove valuable. It is a great way to show the employee you care about their opinions, how they see a situation, or how a project is going. Sometimes you can craft the question into a statement format and still get the employee to provide meaningful information. Here are some basic examples to get the conversation started by getting the employee to open up:
♦ How do you feel about . . . ?
♦ Tell me about . . . .?
♦ What are your thoughts about . . . ?
♦ How do you see . . . ?
♦ I’d like to hear your opinion about . . .?
Clarifying Questions and Statements
The clarifying question or statement works well because it gives the employee an opportunity to correct any misunderstandings or errors, which is crucial in gathering good feedback. It is also a good way to keep the conversation going and prove to the employee that you are listening. Some simple examples are;
♦ It sounds like from your point of view . . .
♦ So, you are suggesting . . . ?
♦ You seem to disagree with . . .
♦ What are you suggesting again. . .?
♦ What if . . . ?
♦ It looks like . . .
Follow-up Questions and Statements
Employees do not always respond with meaningful information, even when using open-ended and clarifying types of questions or statements. If you sense you are getting vague feedback of any kind, keep using follow-up questions requesting more specific information at the level of detail you feel is necessary. Here is a variety of simple follow-up questions that can help:
♦ What did you do exactly in that situation?
♦ How did you specifically use this information?
♦ How often did . . . ?
♦ When you felt that way, what did you do?
♦ Over the last quarter, how many . . . ?
Each situation is different, as is every employee. Use your listening and questioning skills to help engage the employee in positive ways. This will increase the likelihood of the employee providing good quality feedback.
Giuliano, Jim (April 2008), HR Morning; 6 Questions Every Employee Should ask During a Performance Review retreived at https://www.hrmorning.com/6-questions-every-employee-should-ask-during-a-performance-review/
Oklahoma Baptist University Office of Human Resources (March 2005), Employee Performance Review Reference Guide retreived at https://www.okbu.edu/businessaffairs/hr/Reference%20Guide.pdf