An organization’s most complex challenges can be learned from employees – and what they’re not saying. In the second of a three-part blog series, management consultant Guillaume Pajoet shares how to glean insight from employee interviews. 

When we interview employees, we want to know what may be holding back them, or their company, from achieving breakthrough resultsAnd although every group we meet with is unique, there is one common, troubling thing we hear all too often.

Most people complain about their managers. But when it comes to articulating the company’s vision, employees are consistently silent. So when interviewing for what we call the “reveal” phase, we often ask questions like this:

What are you paid to do? It’s a simple question. But it rarely elicits a simple answer. People understand what they do in terms of the tasks they perform. They have to produce a certain number of widgets per month, for instance. But they are very bad at explaining what they are responsible for, what the company expects from them, and where they fit into the organization as a whole. Top-line managers often understand this aspect of their jobs. But we find that far too few workers do.

What are the reasons the company is successful? Again, this question usually stumps employees, who have trouble pinpointing the source of their company’s success beyond a popular product line.

And which of those reasons are linked to what you do specifically? Not only do they have trouble explaining what makes their company successful, but they are also unsure of how they fit into that equation. This matters. A lot. Because work needs to matter to the workers. Unless you want a workforce that just mindlessly churns widgets out every month, you need to create an environment where workers care about what they do. And workers can’t care if they don’t understand why the widgets they make will make a difference to everyone around them and to the company as a whole.

How can you articulate to your employees the nuts and bolts of your company’s vision and their role in it?

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