Article: 6 Questions That Increase Employee Engagement

Focusing an employee’s attention on what they can do to make a positive difference helps build their engagement.

Ask your employees a few active questions

Are you looking for a simple, cost-effective way to increase your employees’ engagement? If so, we have a solution.

Discussions of employee engagement often focus on the role of management in increasing overall engagement. Yet, one of the most under recognized aspects of employee engagement is the role of an employee in boosting their workplace engagement. In short, they have to “own their career.”

Engagement is one of The BB&T Leadership Institute’s five core leadership programs and the topic of our podcast about the six questions employees should ask themselves to increase their own engagement.

The Leadership Amplitude podcast series is hosted by Anna Slaydon, a sales and marketing support analyst at The BB&T Leadership Institute, and features Steve Swavely, PhD, a senior vice president who heads The BB&T Leadership Institute’s corporate leadership development programs.

Swavely argues in the podcast that employees must take responsibility for the nature of their workplace culture and environment. He says it’s fair to ask, “What can employees do to engage themselves?”

Managers can benefit from following the lead of Marshall Goldsmith, one of the first executive coaches, who studied how employees engage themselves. Goldsmith recommends employees ask themselves active questions such as “What can I do to improve this situation?”

The purpose of Goldsmith’s active questions is to focus an employee’s attention on what they can do to make a positive difference, an action that, in turn, helps build the employee’s engagement.

Goldsmith studied how active questions can improve employee engagement at a client’s firm. He asked his employees to spend two minutes at the end of each work day and ask themselves a series of six questions along the lines of “What did I do today that helped me build my satisfaction at work?” and “What did I do today to help me be better at my job?”

Goldsmith instructed his employees to ask themselves the six questions for two weeks and keep a journal of their responses. The results were startling.

After just two weeks, the employees demonstrated steady improvement: 37% of them showed improvement on all six questions, and 65% showed improvement on at least four questions. Nine out of 10 showed improvement on at least one question. Only 1% showed no improvement, and 1% showed a negative change.

A two-minute drill

Swavely suggests that employees increase their engagement by combining Goldsmith’s two-minute drill with questions about the six engagement drivers mentioned in a previous Leadership Amplitude podcast. Of course, you must also implement an overarching employee engagement program before putting this employee-directed plan into action (more on this leadership caveat in a moment).

For the three relationship-based drivers—connectedness, fairness and importance—employees should ask themselves:

  • What did I do today that helped me build my relationship with my manager?
  • What did I do today to ensure the way I do my job is fair to everyone I work with?
  • What did I do today to make myself even more important to my manager or the organization?

For the three task-oriented drivers—clarity, control and competence—employees should ask themselves:

  • What did I do today to help myself gain clarity on an issue I was uncertain about?
  • What did I do today to expand my own sphere of influence or control over my job?
  • What did I do today to build my skills and increase my competency for the job that I do or the job I want?

As Goldsmith’s research indicates, nearly every employee can improve their engagement by asking themselves these questions at the end of each workday.

Of course, as Swavely says, “It’s simple to ask yourself those questions, but acting on the answers, well, that’s where the rubber meets the road, and that’s not necessarily the easy part.”

One caveat for leaders: You shouldn’t put this plan into action until you’ve created an action plan around your own role in building engagement, shared the plan with your team and implemented it. After all, your actions are a critical factor in employee engagement.

For more information about employee engagement, such as an engagement survey, please call 336-665-3300 or email us at

Learn more about engagement

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