5 Questions to Keep Employees Happy
Engaging your employees for greater productivity is easier than you think

In the construction business, there is no asset more valuable than employees. Projects are won because of a company's reputation, which is built on skills, talents and expertise. While the aim is for clients to be satisfied and happy with the finished work, employee engagement directly impacts the bottom line. According to recent research conducted by Gallup and the Global Workforce Survey, disengaged employees rank among the top three business threats, with each disengaged employee costing a company an average of $2,246 annually. How do you know if your employees are engaged, and how can you uncover ways to make them more engaged?

1. How's it going?

The key to getting real answers is how, when and where you say it. Calling an employee into your office as you sit behind your desk and ask, "How's your job going?" will get one answer. Instead, leave your own domain and initiate conversation on their turf. Comfort levels will be much higher and you will learn more. Keeping a pulse on engagement and job satisfaction doesn't have to be a formal, sit-down interview. A broad check-in conducted through friendly conversation gives you the chance to read non-verbal communication and tone. Those say just as much—if not more—than what employees' words reveal.

2. What has been your favorite assignment recently?

Asking about a favorite assignment helps you uncover a win you may have not known about or gain new insight into a finished project. Indirectly, your employee may be sharing their strengths and the elements of projects that they really enjoy. This can also uncover details of the team dynamic; who worked well together and what obstacles they overcame. This information can be taken into consideration for future projects when you are coordinating teams for jobs and assigning responsibilities. On the other hand, if this question yields a less enthusiastic answer, that's an immediate red flag.

3. If you had complete control, what work would you do more of?

If you are posing this question to the employee who didn't seem too thrilled about his/her recent projects and responsibilities, this is your opportunity to find out what truly excites them. If those aspirations align with their skills, and those skills align with opportunities that exist in your current structure, you are now armed with information to take action. The employee will recognize your commitment to their development and appreciate the chance to explore other avenues, and your bottom line will benefit. A Gallup study found companies with engaged employees outperform those without such employees by as much as 202 percent. The statistic supports what happens when you task individuals with what they love in an area in which they succeed and thrive: they are bound to be more engaged and more productive.

4. What's an area or skill you'd like to strengthen in the year ahead?

The benefit of this question is two-fold: If the employee's goal requires additional development before they can productively pursue their goal, this serves as the perfect segue to discuss and put the wheels in motion with a development plan. You have heard the "Where do you see yourself in five years?" question, but five years is quite a long time. One year feels manageable. Employees can provide a reasonable answer about what they'd like to do over the next year, and you can act as a coach to help them achieve it.

5. How can I help?

Offering an employee your assistance demonstrates your support and investment in their growth. They may ask what ideas you can offer, so have some resources to suggest, such as an upcoming conference or some online continuing education courses available to your employees. These areas should include communication, team building, project management or sales opportunities.

After the conversation wraps up, the work still needs to continue. Make quick notes on the conversation. What did you learn? What are the available opportunities? What action items do you need to revisit to maintain momentum? While you may not touch on each of these questions every time, develop the practice of connecting with your employees monthly to keep your finger on the pulse of progress and engagement. These conversations may feel awkward at first, but this approach will quickly become a habit that pays off for your business and everyone in it.