Have you ever seen the reality TV programme, ‘Undercover Boss’? Typically, a CEO goes to work in their own business in disguise so they can connect with their employees or franchisees and discover where the problems lie and what learns they can gain.

Along the way, they discover real needs and make human connections that end up changing the way they view their business and the people within it, for the better.

Secretly watching your employees is one way to go about learning about them and their needs, their strengths and weaknesses, but another, and much simpler way is to speak to them! Effective communication is at the core of any successful relationship, and open and honest communication helps build trust and ensures everyone is aligned to the company’s vision.

Start with why you want to learn about your employees

What is it that you hope to gain from learning more about the people in your teams? Do you want to learn about their ‘why’ and what drives them to come to work every day so you can provide that for them? Do you need to increase efficiency, promote collaboration or begin delegating? Do you want to understand more about attitude and application? Do you want to establish if your people are following your systemised processes? Are you growing or downscaling your team and need to understand how they will react?

Whatever it is you need to learn, be clear with yourself and with your team as to why you are having this conversation.

Employee evaluations and feedback

Reserve a SWOT analysis for the business itself, which will include your resources, and for the people within your business I recommend having an open conversation. However, to ensure the conversation remains focused on the points you need to cover, prepare your questions and feedback in advance and share the agenda with your employee.

If you want to be truly holistic, you could ask them to evaluate you, their own role and how they view the business at the same time.

Transparency is key in learning about your employees. If you remain honest and authentic in your delivery of questioning then you will gain clear answers and learning opportunities that have true value in return.

Emphasising the negatives within your team could result in a pessimistic view of the team’s performance and potential. Try instead to emphasise the learning opportunities from mistakes. I would also recommend focusing on the positive attributes of both the individual and the team to shape goals for the future. If negatives do need to be addressed, try coming at it from an angle of trying to gain an understanding of why there has been poor performance, for example and use it as a learn. And finish the conversation on a positive note.

Lastly, don’t save your employee learning as an annual event. Regular conversations keeps the topics fresh in everyone’s mind, timely and builds stronger relationships between employer and employee. As always, I hope this information has been of use to you and if I can help you approach employee learning in any way, let’s have a conversation.

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