21+ Questions Every Manager Should Ask Their Employees
Two’s a company, three’s a crowd, and 10… is a whole lot of employees to keep up with.
Managers, you have a lot on your plate. You’re responsible for differing personalities, communication styles, preferences, and motivations. Getting to know your team and solidifying these bits of information can be time-consuming—and even a little awkward. But your teammates need to know each other to work well together. How do you get over the “icebreaker” cringe?
The key is to prepare ahead of time by doing things like setting up a list of questions to regularly ask your employees.
Getting To Know Your Team: Personal Questions
Build out these questions as an “employee bio” that anyone can update any time so everyone on your team knows how to work together and get along well. This will help you get over the “getting-to-know-you”s and enable better collaboration and communication.
Some things about your team members are helpful to know right off the bat. Others will come up naturally as you begin to work together. As you onboard an employee to your team, you need to get to know them on a professional and personal level. Here are a couple of jumping-off points.
Questions To Ask New Hires
1. “What’s the best way to communicate with you?”
Whether you’re working remotely or in the office, communication preferences matter. Is your new employee a verbal or visual communicator? Do they prefer to have meetings via Zoom or face-to-face? Will they respond faster via email or Slack? Accommodate these preferences when you can to help your new hire communicate at their best.
2. “What’s your working style?”
There are countless work styles and personality quizzes out there, but the most direct answer comes from the most direct source—your employee. Determine if team work or independent projects make more sense for them. Do they work better in complete silence or do they need music and bustle? Can they brainstorm on the fly or do they prefer to let ideas stew?
3. “What management style works best for you?”
Sure, no one likes a micro-manager, but no one wants to be ghosted, either. Ask your new hire if they prefer continuous feedback while they work—or if they need you to get off their back and offer feedback at the end of the task. Maybe they feel frozen without constant direction and structure. Or perhaps they’re most creative and productive when left entirely to their own devices. They may need regular recognition and encouragement, or it may embarrass them. Seek to be the best manager you can be, not just for your team—but for each individual you manage.
4. “What’s the best process for you to learn a new skill?”
As companies change—and so does the world—workers must adapt. The number of skills required for a job has been increasing by 10% year-over-year since 2017, per Gartner. Prepare your workers accordingly by offering training in different formats based on how they answer this question. Some workers learn best on the job. Others like to have a textbook, a seminar, hands-on training, and a few discussions before they’re comfortable. Knowing how your team learns best will equip you to train them best.
Questions For Employee Bios
Okay, the boring questions are out of the way… now it’s time to get to know your new hire on a personal level! Help them build out an employee bio or one-sheet using the questions below. Ask them about their interests, fun facts (yes—grueling, but necessary), and more to get a better sense of their personality. This is the best and easiest way to build camaraderie across your team and find common interests—all of which contribute to better employee engagement.
Here’s a small list to get you started:
- What are your hobbies?
- What are some things you do to get to know other people?
- What do you do to avoid burnout?
- Which company values align with your personal values?
- How do you spend your time unwinding?
Questions To Ask Your Team
Now that you’ve established intros with your new employees, make sure you’re asking your existing team questions, too! This will help reduce team friction, ensure everyone’s working under the best conditions for them, and keep everyone happy.
Things Every Teammate Should Know About Each Other
1.“Do you prefer to communicate synchronously or async?”
Everyone has their preferences, but a working team needs to come up with a compromise. Map out who loves meeting face-to-face and who would rather have every meeting be an email. Ask for preferred meeting times so your night owls and morning birds can meet in the middle. Then you won’t have to worry about waiting for an email response from someone who never checks their inbox, or forcing someone to attend a 1:1 meeting when they won’t be fully awake. Cater your work to your team’s working styles for better productivity.
2. “What motivates you to come to work?”
What empowers your team? Identify key motivators and opportunities for recognition that will drive your employees to do their best work and show up at their fullest each day.
3. “How can we support your skills?”
You hired your team based on their skills—now use them. Encourage your employees to use their skills when they can and to take part in regular skill-sharing and training. Ask each individual what skills they have that the whole team can utilize. What skills would your team like the whole company to develop? And what’s the best way to train each person on new skills?
Getting Management Feedback From Your Team
As a manager, you should always be growing alongside your direct reports. Ask these questions of your team regularly—in team meetings, 1:1s, and on the job. The answers may surprise you and will help you grow as a leader and a coworker.
1. “Am I doing a good job supporting you?”
This should always be your #1 question. Your job as a manager is to support and elevate your team as you delegate work. Ask how you can best support your direct reports’ goals, and where you could be paying more attention. Make sure you’re giving feedback and delegating work properly so no one is overwhelmed or overly bored. Ask each employee to clearly list their goals or OKRs so you know you’re not missing a thing.
2. "Which areas can I improve?”
The more you ask your personnel for feedback, the more honest they can be. Ask for regular input on improving your communication or leadership. What can you do more of? Less of? What should you do differently as a manager? What should you do differently as a team? Build a space for employees to give you these answers and they will deliver.
Questions For Performance Reviews And 1:1 Meetings
Getting to know your employees isn’t a one-and-done job. Everyone’s working styles, needs, and goals change and grow—it’s your job as a manager to stay on top of that. Here are some questions to incorporate into your regular check-ins so you don’t miss a thing.
Questions To Ask In 1:1s
Your recurring 1:1 meetings are an opportunity for you and your employee to be frank with one another and plan for their professional growth. Don’t skimp out here and just look at the tasks at hand or the calendar ahead. Take this time to plan out your employee’s success—and your success as a leader.
1. “What can we celebrate?”
Every 1:1 should have a moment of recognition and celebration. Ask your report: what are your latest successes? What challenges have you overcome? What tasks did you most enjoy recently? Take this moment to applaud your employee for their work, and use those answers to guide what work they do moving forward.
2. "Which areas need some work?”
Provide structural criticism to keep your employees moving in the right direction. Ask, “What challenges are you facing?” and “What skills or behaviors do you think you need to improve?” to identify areas of growth as well as spaces you can interject as a leader and help.
3. “What do you need from me?:
Help support your employees in their trajectory by asking longer-term planning questions, like “What would you like to do next?” and “What resources do you need?” Help them identify their career path by asking what career growth opportunities they see themselves taking advantage of. Ask how you can help them with these goals and work together to build a plan to make them happen.
Questions For Professional Reviews
Mid-year and annual reviews can be daunting, but they’re an opportunity to help your employee see their future at the company and learn from their past. On your end as a manager, these reviews can give you a lot of insight into leadership gaps and company attitudes.
1. “What’s missing?”
Does your team have all the resources and information they need? Ask each employee “What don’t you understand about your role?” and identify which responsibilities they’d like to share with others. “What training do you feel you’re missing?” is a great straightforward question that will immediately identify gaps—maybe your product marketing manager never got official training on the product! This is your chance to make sure you cover these bases.
2. “How are you growing?”
Are there any opportunity gaps your employee would like to explore? Managers don’t typically know this unless they ask. Prompt your hire to reflect on the tasks they’re missing out on and help them fix some of that FOMO. Then work together to answer the real question: how can we support your career growth in the next 6 months?
3. “Does the team have your back?”
Ultimately, managers have to make sure teammates support each other. Investigate that team power in your reviews. Have other teammates helped this individual lately? Who has motivated them? Which co-worker do they learn from the most? Understanding this team dynamic will help you plan better cross-team collaboration and give recognition where it’s due.
From Question To Collab
While managing a team of multiple employees can seem like a hefty undertaking, the secret lies in understanding each individual and how they work with others. Asking questions like these will give you stronger skills in active listening, allowing you to plan both short- and long-term for your team’s success. Plus, getting to know your teammates on a personal level will give you a better idea of who they are and what perspective they can add to your work. Staying successful and happy at work is all about being human—so get to know the humans you work with!