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December 15, 2021

Teach Employees the Importance of Asking Questions

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The most direct way to learn more about a subject you’re not familiar with is to ask questions. This is why when in doubt, your employees should be willing to ask for information. If workers feel confident speaking to customers, to managers and to one another, they can directly improve their performance as a team.

Asking good questions is a classic soft skill — rather than a hard piece of technical knowledge, it’s an ability based on empathy and understanding. While some leaders may assume the ability to ask questions is innate, and can’t be taught, that’s not true. There are courses that can help your employees build their questioning skills and become more curious, informed workers.

What is the Importance of Asking Questions at Work?

Questions don’t just fill time in conversations; they encourage interaction. When a person asks a question, that shifts the momentum of a discussion, encouraging the other party to speak up. This is a valuable skill whether an employee is dealing with customers or coworkers.

As Forbes Careers contributor Goldie Chan explained, asking questions is an established way of both gathering information and deepening relationships. When an employee is speaking with a customer, a well-placed and expertly chosen question can make the customer feel seen and engaged. The answer then reveals useful facts to inform the company’s future dealings with the client.

When workers are ready to ask good questions, that can drive a natural improvement of the company culture. Chan noted, sometimes work environments become defined by a lack of curiosity. If people simply carry out work without asking follow-up questions about how to accomplish something or why it’s being done, bad habits may take hold. For example, employees may jump to conclusions and miss out on opportunities to improve the way the business operates.

Moving through the day feeling unable to ask questions, either of clients or fellow employees, can harm a company’s innovation and morale over the long term. Questioning and critical thinking are closely aligned, and modern businesses need both.

What Makes a Good Question?

Questioning skills are more subtle and involved than they may seem at first. Just making employees more comfortable asking questions is only half the battle. They should also be prepared to come up with an effective query for a particular situation.

This is how an employee goes from asking a question to asking a good question: by knowing what to say based on context. Making a breakthrough with a customer or reaching out to a colleague effectively may come down to the kind of questions asked.

Harvard Business Review explained that in many cases, using an open-ended question is ideal. These queries don’t push respondents into a specific answer and help them feel at ease. Of course, this doesn’t mean people should always default to open-ended questioning. Trying to get a clear answer about a sensitive matter is sometimes best accomplished with a closed question, for instance.

There are additional skills that can make questioning especially effective. For instance, HBR noted when questions are casual, and when people are reassured they can change their answers after the fact, they may feel free to offer up useful information. These concepts explain why brainstorming sessions tend to be effective. Team members are simply throwing out ideas, which may include concepts they wouldn’t suggest in a more formal setting.

What Kind of Training Helps Employees Ask Questions?

Learning how to ask questions is a specific skill, but it’s not hard to add to your company’s training strategy. With today’s video-based course materials, there are convenient and affordable ways to work directly on your team members’ questioning skills.

For instance, some training materials are based around customer interactions. Good questioning in these cases can help improve the customer experience and determine whether someone will become a repeat buyer. Other courses are focused on specific aspects of questioning, such as learning how to ask an open-ended question to overcome challenges in the workplace. Still, other materials are designed to give individual learners an overview of many different question types, so they can pick the right question and use a suitable approach for any given moment.

From critical thinking to customer service, so many aspects of business are tied to effective questioning. Whichever approach you choose, your employees can benefit from a refresher course in asking questions

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