The Best Question You Can Ask to Impact Your Employee Engagement (or your own)

Posted on August 5, 2019 by mmaloney

Employee Engagement has been a hot topic for a while now in the business world.  However, HOW you increase employee engagement definitely has some differing opinions.  Most people agree that if you put your employees first, it is the easiest way to ensure they put your customers first. 

If you have heard me speak, or read some of my past articles you know that I am not a believer that some of the current strategies on the market for employee engagement are what people are looking for.  Don’t get me wrong they are amazing perks.  I just don’t think they are enough.  I challenge that if putting pool tables, ping pong tables and offering free lunches were all it takes to increase employee satisfaction at work, every company would have done this by now and the companies that do offer this would be shouting from the rooftops about their employee stay rates.

The other thing we hear about a lot is to “do what you love”, “live your passion”, “follow your dreams”.  And all the other cliché phrases that can make someone feel unsatisfied with their current position.  This can be a confusing concept for a lot of people, because not everyone is a dreamer.  Not everyone is someone who wants to build their own business, and not everyone can envision what role in the corporate world will fulfill them in this way, and that is okay!  Some people are limited by the resources they have to be able to risk take in the same way. 

As someone who works in both the corporate world and the world of entrepreneurship, I am passionate about helping people find fulfillment and ultimately happiness in their lives, but in some cases, this is a long-term goal, and may not come from the current job.  This does not mean they can not currently be fulfilled though, and this is what I teach leaders.  Our role as a leader is to help people be better, to help people get what they want, and to help people not hate walking into work each day. 

And today I heard a question that is the best question I have ever heard asked that will help all employers and employees reflect on what will actually help them find satisfaction in the workplace.  Are you ready for it???

“What do you need out of this job so that the paycheck becomes the least important factor as to why you show up each day?”

There are a lot of things you can learn about someone when you take the time to truly understand the answer to this question.  And as a leader, it is your responsibility to know the answer to this question for every single person that works for you. 

The great thing about this question, is that someone could be in a minimum wage job, and you can still offer them a lot of fulfilling things based on the answer to this question.  You may simply be a “job” to someone, a stepping stone to their future, but you can still keep them feel immensely satisfied and engaged in the work place in the meantime.  I hear often from leaders that someone doesn’t actually want to be there, but this is what they are doing until their dream job becomes available.  Does that mean we don’t want them to be 100% committed in the meantime? 

The other aspect to this question, is it does put some personal ownership onto you.  It is not solely the organizations responsibility to create ways to satisfy you, you need to play a part as well.  Let’s be honest it is likely not even possible for an organization to satisfy everyone with physical and tangible things.  It allows you, as an individual, to identify what you need and be a part of creating ways to get it.  Finding ways both inside and outside of the organization to get that satisfaction.

If learning is something that increases your fulfillment; ask for book recommendations that will help you grow.

If being creative is important to you; volunteer to be part of a new project.

If routine is important to you; create a schedule of tasks that allow you to build a routine around them.

If you are feeling like you aren’t giving back enough, represent your company on a local charity board.

I am a firm believer that connections and relationships are what will keep someone at your side.  That when someone knows you are committed to making them better and more marketable in the future, they will fight with you in the present.  That when you care about people in a way that they know you have their back; they will have yours. 

In order to get to this point though, you as a leader, need to have the conversation and understand what someone is looking for, don’t assume.  And trust me; when you ask someone this question and they say, “I need the money”, don’t stop digging there.  We all need money… but the root of WHY that money is needed and WHAT they would do if money wasn’t the factor, is the information you are looking for, so keep digging!  This isn’t a surface answer.  What will living debt free allow someone to do?  What would not living pay check to pay check mean for them?  What do they want, that they hold back from getting because money is a factor?  What would make someone stay with your organization, even if they never saw a raise again?  Money is NOT what satisfies someone at work, it is simply a factor that we all need to live in the current marketplace.

Melissa Maloney is the founder of Happy Leader Enterprises and is committed to helping you increase your corporate culture and employee engagement through efficiency, effectiveness and engagement.  You can learn more at

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