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Beyond ‘R U OK?’: Tips on How to Craft Meaningful Questions for Deeper Employee Connections

To truly engage with employees and build a strong sense of fellowship, it's important for leaders and colleagues to ask questions that go beyond the typical day-to-day conversation.
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R U OK Day and Beyond

According to Gartner’s most recent Global Talent Monitor Survey, performed between October and December 2022, employees overall wellness declined in Q4, 2022, falling to 34.5% (from 36.5%). This downward trend has continued in 2023, with financial, physical, and emotional wellbeing reaching its lowest point in more than two years.

According to the ADP Research Institute’s ‘People at Work 2022: A Global Workforce View’ found that nearly half of the workforce (46%) in Australia believe their job is deteriorating as a result of poor mental health. More than half of the millennial workforce (56%) believes that poor mental health is affecting their employment. A shocking 70% of Australian workers report feeling stressed at least once a week, with 27% feeling stressed more than four times per week. 

With all this in mind, fostering genuine connections among employees is now essential for creating a happy, healthy, and thriving workplace culture. While the classic “How are you?” or “R U OK” is a good starting point, it’s essential to dig deeper to truly understand your employees’ experiences, thoughts, and emotions. To truly engage with employees and build a strong sense of fellowship, it’s important for leaders and colleagues to ask questions that go beyond the typical day-to-day conversation.

  1. Connecting with Interests: Before you start delving into crafting questions, it’s crucial to approach conversations with genuine curiosity and care. Authenticity plays a critical role here; people can sense whether the questions are asked out of duty rather than true interest.  It’s important to show that you care about their wellbeing, professional growth, and opinions. Instead of inquiring, “R U OK?”, or “How was your weekend?” try posing a question, “Did you engage in any activities over the weekend that energised you or helped you feel relaxed?” This question encourages employees to discuss their hobbies and passions, revealing a more holistic view of their lives. When employees feel valued and understood, they’re more likely to open up to meaningful discussions. 

  2. Reflect on Personal Growth: Many employees have passion projects or areas of expertise that they are passionate about outside of their daily work tasks. Enquire about these interests to demonstrate that you recognise their special abilities or talent. “What’s something new you’ve learned recently, either personally or professionally, that you’re excited about?” This question encourages employees to talk about their accomplishments and growth, which helps in creating a more deep connection with employees.

  3. Acknowledging Obstacles: Create an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing challenges they face. By doing so, you can provide them guidance and support. Instead of using the usual “How’s your day?” question, consider asking, “What’s a difficulty you’re presently encountering, and how can we help you?” This inquiry acknowledges challenges and creates an opportunity for colleagues or employers to extend support, showcasing team collaboration.

  4. Gratitude and Reflection: Gratitude serves as a powerful and meaningful medium for positive emotions and deeper connections. When employees feel valued and appreciated, they are more likely to engage openly in conversations. Meaningful questions infused with gratitude can transform interactions into opportunities for growth and mutual support. You can regularly express your gratitude for their contributions by using questions like “What’s something you’ve worked on recently that you feel particularly proud of?” or “Is there a colleague you’d like to acknowledge for their support?” Shift from “How’s your week looking so far?” to “What’s one thing this week that you’re grateful for?” This question promotes mindfulness and helps employees focus on the positive aspects of their experiences.

  5. Seek Feedback: Fostering a culture of continuous improvement relies on actively seeking employee feedback. When you ask questions that prompt their insights, you encourage their engagement in shaping team dynamics and processes. For instance, posing questions like “What’s one thing you believe would improve our team’s collaboration?” or “Do you have any suggestions to enhance our project management approach?” opens the door for valuable perspectives.

    These questions signal that their opinions are not only welcomed but valued, fostering a sense of ownership and investment in the team’s success. It’s those who are on the front lines of day-to-day operations that often hold valuable insights that can drive streamlined processes and improved collaboration.

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