Leaders Need to Use This 1 Question To Keep Their Employees Engaged at Work

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May 19, 2024 at 9:17PM UTC

“Are you fulfilled at work?” 

This is the one question leaders need to be asking their employees to not only retain them — but also keep them engaged at work.

Instead of asking the typical questions like, “are you enjoying what you’re working on?” and “what are your pain points?”, asking employees if they’re fulfilled causes them to think more holistically about their work and life.

“Words such as engaged, motivated and valued are still important to gauge employee satisfaction; however, the pandemic has spurred people to think more deeply about themselves and their lives. “Fulfilled” mirrors that deeper level at which employees thinking,” writes Jeneane Becker, who has retained 100 percent of her team members in 2021 — a rocky year for employers when employees were quitting in droves.

Asking the right question is the first step — then there’s taking the right action. Here’s what to do after you’ve asked this question to make sure you’re listening and acting on what your employees are saying.

1. Take a pause.

We rush to fill in the (often) awkward silences in our work conversations, especially when we’re not actually in-person and can take cues from body language. After you’ve asked this question, make sure you’re giving your employee enough time to really think about their answer and to communicate it to you. This means sitting back and not speaking for a bit — even if it’s quiet! 

“The pauses and silence that follow these questions feel like an eternity, and the urge to jump in and rephrase the question, offer possible responses, or move on to another topic is natural,” Becker writes. “But we have found the best insights our employees have shared often emerge from this uncomfortable, thoughtful silence. Allowing the silence to linger demonstrates that there is no more important topic to discuss.”

If your employee isn’t sure how to answer the question or wants more time to think, give them the space to think it over and schedule a follow-up meeting to address it.

2. Think about one action you can take right now.

The best way to show you’re serious about what your employees are saying is to take an action that can help work toward what they want in the short term. What can you change or offer them that would help with their satisfaction tomorrow? This week?

If they want better work-life balance, institute a “no meeting day” or create a strict team boundary or new rules about communicating during non-work hours. If they want to grow their skills in a certain area, loop them in on a related project or discuss course options they can take to learn externally. 

3. Create a long-term plan.

Next, dedicate some more time with your employee to figure out the logistics of how to deliver on some of the other things they’ve discussed. Maybe it’s about setting a long-term goal so they can complete a new project. Maybe it’s scheduling regular meetings to check in and discuss deliverables they thought weren’t getting enough attention. Maybe it’s helping them find a mentor in or outside of the company.

4. Follow up.

Employee re-engagement and satisfaction aren’t as easy as asking a simple question and making some quick changes. It’s important to check in to see how the changes are affecting their work life — and revisit the question “are you fulfilled at work?” again and again as the employee grows.


This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Zoe Kaplan is a Staff Writer & Content Strategist at Fairygodboss.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for re-engaging employees? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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