How I Get to Know the People Behind My Employees

John Tabis
Jun 3, 2015 · 4 min read

We’ve all had one — a boss who could care less about who we are or what we did so long as we got the job done. Or, worse, a boss who could never get our name right. Needless to say, you probably didn’t stick around there for too long.

Being able to successfully manage and lead employees nowadays requires getting to know them on a more personal level. A company’s workforce is comprised of people from various backgrounds and lifestyles, and getting to know the person behind the employee can help employers better understand each member’s unique strengths, weaknesses, goals, etc. Having a better understanding of employees makes it a lot easier to work together toward common goals.

When it comes to getting to know employees, a blanket employee satisfaction survey isn’t going to cut it. At my startup, The Bouqs Company, we put a new spin on the employee questionnaire.

Each month, our Culture Chef (real title) will interview a random employee during our town hall meetings. During these interviews, employees are given an opportunity to discuss where they grew up, what they did as kids, life-changing experiences — you get the gist. What’s more, the interview is accompanied by a slideshow of photos including baby pics and awkward teen moments (fun for all).

As with any interview, the most important aspect is what is asked. I’ve found that these questions, in particular, help me get to know my team and build better work relationships in the process. Try asking a few — you’ll be surprised how much employees will open up.

On Growing Up

  • Where did you grow up? Tell us about your town/neighborhood/family.
  • What story does your family always tell about you?
  • What do you miss most about being a kid?

Why They Work: Questions like these serve as a great warm-up. They don’t take much thought, and most employees feel comfortable sharing some of their childhood stories. To understand why people are the way they are, sometimes it’s necessary to start from the beginning. Not to mention, questions on employees’ childhood (and the pictures that accompany them) often result in a few laughs.

On Past Accomplishments

  • What was your ‘thing’ in high school? Your biggest achievement?
  • If you went to college, where did you go? What was your biggest achievement?
  • What jobs did you have previously? What did you like best/least about those jobs?

Why They Work: Questions on an employee’s past accomplishments can give you a better idea of an employee’s future potential. These questions help provide a sense of forward mobility and progress. Additionally, relating accomplishments to the rest of the company gives employees a chance to be recognized (and who doesn’t love a bit of praise). Not only does this recognition boost overall morale, it can inspire others.

On Life Outside of the Office

  • What is your favorite time of day/day of the week/month of the year?
  • What kind of music are you into? Give us an artist/song that represents your taste.
  • If you’ve traveled, where to? Where is your favorite place to visit?

Why They Work: If you really want to get to know employees, consider asking some questions on employees’ lives outside of the workplace — what they like to do for fun, what music they listen to, etc. After all, there’s more to your employees than the work they produce. These questions are the key to building a more personal connection.

On the Person Behind the Employee

  • What has been your biggest challenge in life? Biggest success?
  • What one thing would you change if you had to do it over?
  • What defines happiness for you?
  • Tell us a crazy story. What is something you did or participated in that will make our jaws drop?

Why They Work: As with the questions on life outside of the office, these questions can give you a better understanding of your workers as people versus workers. Questions on employee happiness, in particular, can help the entire workforce maximize happiness in the workplace. We’ve found that ending employee interviews with a personal story is especially fun.

Whether you pull from these questions or come up with some of your own, the important thing is that you take the time out of your workday to foster relationships in the workplace. Better yet, make it a group effort by getting employees involved. Not only can employee “interviews” serve as a fun break from everyday tasks, they help build a stronger bond between you and your team. Give it a shot; you’ll be surprised at how much your company will gain.

John Tabis is the founder and CEO of The Bouqs Company, a cut-to-order online flower delivery service. Connect with John and @TheBouqs on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

    John Tabis

    Written by

    love building great things; brand and consumer strategist; renaissance-y. Founder & CEO @ http://Bouqs.com

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