Employee Questions: Help Your Team Figure It Out on Their Own

The phrase “just google it” has become pretty common in many a workplace. We live in an age where infinite wisdom is just a few mouse clicks away. However, that doesn’t seem to stop some folks from asking you the same questions over and over again. This puts HR professionals in a pretty tight spot. You want to accommodate your team members and help them succeed, but come on! You’ve shown them how to look up their vacation days, like, twenty times now. So, how do you get employees to answer their own questions? That’s a, well, great question.  

Flip the Script

You know it. We know it. Most of their coworkers know it. The answer to their question is easily searchable online or in an employee handbook. Boy, it would be so tempting to reiterate that, especially when there’s so much else going on. The problem? Leaving your employee to his or her own devices could yield some less-than-ideal results and you run the risk of coming off as dismissive, potentially training your employees not to come to you with any questions – even the important ones. 

You can combat by putting the solution in their hands. When an employee asks you a question they should already know the answer to, pause for a moment. Let that silence get as awkward as possible. A lot of us simply need to hear the question out loud before arriving at the answer all on our own. Still pausing, huh? Ok. Let’s try asking them where they might be able to find the answer.

Communicate Your Trust

A fear of making mistakes can often lead to a lot of second-guessing, because who wants to look dumb in front of their coworkers? Even worse, who wants their boss to think they’re dumb? This usually results in a lot of questions from the worried employee, which ironically might make you second guess whether they’re up for the job you hired them to do. 

So, how do you avoid this circle of Q&A? Trust them to arrive at the right answer all on their own. Ok, so now you trust them…now what? Well, you have to actually tell your employees you trust them. Just like flipping the script, empower your employees to find answers on their own by building up their confidence. The next time your more interrogative employees need a little guidance, try saying something like, “Why don’t you try it out first? I trust you with it. Let me know if you get stuck.” Remember, tone is everything. Being too dismissive is probably going to leave them with even more self-doubt. 

Trusting employees, even when they don’t 100% trust themselves, is a tall order. You’ve got to really mean it and accept that there are probably going to be some speed bumps along the way. Part of this is trusting your employees to not only figure things out on their own, but tell you when they need your help.     

Recognize When Employees Answer Their Own Questions

Think back to that Psych 101 class in college. Remember the term “positive reinforcement?” If you need a refresher, positive reinforcement simply means rewarding or praising someone when they do what’s asked of them. You don’t have to give your employees a cookie or sticker every time they answer their own question, but a simple word or two of encouragement can really make a difference. 

Here’s another way to think about it. Answering employee questions over and over again is exhausting and takes time away from your actual work. We’ve covered that. Wouldn’t you be legitimately grateful for every time you didn’t have to hold someone’s hand? Tell your employees! “Thank you so much for handling that on your own! I’m absolutely swamped today” or “Oh my gosh, I really appreciate you taking a stab at that. Let me show you something that might make it easier next time.” 

Again, we’re not talking about handing out participation trophies or anything, but finding an opportunity to turn a potential negative into a definite positive makes for more empowered employees and a less stressful office. 

Employee Self Service with isolved

One of the biggest areas for employee questions has got to be paperwork. From W4s to emergency contacts, someone has always got a question. CTR has a question for you: wouldn’t it be a whole lot easier if your employees could just help themselves? We certainly think so! isolved’s Employee Self Service does just that. Your team can upload and update all of their paperwork, look up company policies and even check their vacation time—all without a single email in your inbox. Learn more about leveraging isolved Employee Self Service at our webinar. Click here to register.