How (and Why) to Create a Workplace Where Employees Ask for Help

Do your employees feel like they can ask questions without judgement or repercussions, to both coworkers and management?

If not, or—just as bad—if you don’t know, then your workplace might be stuck in a state of arrested development. Creating and enforcing a culture of questioning means higher engagement, productivity, profits, retention, camaraderie: the list goes on.

Keep reading below to learn more about these benefits, how to gauge the current attitude among your employees, and steps to help you create a workplace where employees feel safer speaking up.

Why is a question-friendly workplace necessary?

All the reasons why questions lead to a better workplace could fill a book, but here are eight big ones most employers can get behind:

  1. Higher retention
  2. Fewer avoidable mistakes
  3. Higher productivity
  4. More knowledge and skill transfer
  5. More engagement and camaraderie
  6. Higher profits
  7. More attractive employer brand

Higher retention

Constantly feeling like you can’t ask for help and share what you’re feeling can quickly lead to resentment, a feeling that often closely precedes quitting.

Fewer avoidable mistakes

Over 32,000 workplace injuries happen every year in Canada (this doesn’t even account for non-injury-related mistakes that affect profits). While it’s difficult to say how many of these could be avoided by asking questions, asking questions almost certainly won’t cause more injuries and mistakes.

Higher productivity

Imagine an employee sitting at their desk trying to figure out a problem. They could spend hours trying to figure it out themselves, or ask their coworkers and solve it in a matter of minutes. Multiply this scenario across your entire team, and you can see how asking questions leads to higher productivity.

More knowledge and skill transfer

A more versatile team is a more productive team. The more free employees feel to share their knowledge and skills with their coworkers, the more skills your employees develop and can apply company-wide. This also helps avoid scenarios where you’re forced to overwork a limited pool of employees with a certain set of skills.

More engagement and camaraderie

Work-related questions may not seem like a bonding agent, but they still create opportunities for co-workers to interact. The more this happens, the more co-workers get to know each other, and the more likely they are to develop stronger professional and—potentially—even personal relationships.

Higher profits

Fewer mistakes and higher productivity mean better day-to-day operations, which generates more money for your company.

More attractive employer brand

People want to work for companies with supportive cultures. When employees leave reviews on sites like Glassdoor and Fairygodboss praising your culture, that entices more candidates to apply.

How to create a question-friendly workplace

Employee feedback

Do people already feel like they can ask questions? Do certain areas of your company (i.e. departments or seniority levels) feel like they can but not others? Before you can make any meaningful change, you need to know how your employees currently feel.

You can learn this through email surveys, questionnaires, polls, asking people directly, and looking at your employer reviews. Once you have a baseline, continue to ask for feedback to see if your changes are helping.

Onboarding buddies

Onboarding sets the tone for what employees can expect from you down the road. When done right, you can impress upon new hires right away that you’re a company that encourages employees to ask questions and get help when needed.

One way to accomplish this is by pairing new hires with a dedicated onboarding buddy. This person shows new hires around, introduces them to people, and fields any and all questions as they get used to your workplace and their role.

    Clear role expectations

    Make it clear to employees what’s expected of them in the next 30, 60, and even 90 days. Sometimes, what can stop people from asking questions is wanting to seem like they know what they’re doing, even when they don’t.

    By knowing exactly what they’re working towards, employees can better game plan their day-to-day actions. In turn, this helps them more easily understand what people are involved in reaching their goals, making it clearer who to ask for help (and what to ask).

      Rewarding the right achievements

      What achievements you spotlight in your company speaks to what you value in your employees. By spotlighting achievements that involve problem-solving, you help show that you’re a company that not just encourages asking questions but rewards it.

      For example, every month, you could ask employees to submit the most challenging problem they solved that month. With their permission, you could then share it through internal channels, such as a newsletter or during a company standup.

      Outside of awards, making kudos—quickly shouting out people who helped you in some way— a part of your daily stand-up is another way to prove your supportive workplace culture.

        Scheduled check-ins

        Sometimes, all it takes to get people asking questions is a dedicated platform. Regularly scheduled check-ins provide this platform, giving employees blocked-off time to air what’s on their minds.

        If not weekly, aim for a bi-weekly cadence to not let too much time pass between check-ins, as too much time can lead to issues and questions falling through the cracks. During these check-ins, you can also see how employees are doing in regard to their 30-to-90-day goals and offer any needed support.

        Employee development

        If you have the budget, paying for additional training or education for employees shows that you value self-improvement and problem-solving. This can have a trickle-down effect through your entire workforce, helping people feel like support is available when they’re feeling stuck—both professionally and personally.

        To give you even more incentive, offering employee development proved to be one of the top traits among Canada’s top-rated employers.

        Hopefully, it’s now clear why creating a question-friendly workplace is so important. Benefitting everything from your bottom line to your employees’ well-being, the tips above stand to benefit all workplaces and teams.

        For more help achieving your biggest talent acquisition goals, get in touch with our expert team of hiring professionals today!

        About ML6

        ML6 Search + Talent Advisory is a recruitment and talent advisory firm located in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). We provide customized solutions to support our clients throughout the employee lifecycle. We help our clients attract and retain talent by advising on people programs, processes, and best practices.