What Do Employees Want? Find Out With Rounding

Leaders want employees to be happy, productive, and loyal.

December 1, 2005

Leaders want employees to be happy, productive, and loyal, and it's the leader's job to create conditions that facilitate these qualities.

Two barriers to achieving this goal: information and time.

It's hard to know what problems your team is facing, solve them, show your people you care, and handle all the other tasks on your plate.

That's why Quint Studer, CEO of Studer Group, advocates borrowing from the health care arena with "rounding."

"Rounding is what doctors in hospitals have traditionally done to check on patients," says Studer, author of "Hardwiring Excellence: Purpose, Worthwhile Work, Making a Difference." He says the same idea can be used in business, with a CEO, vice president, or department manager making the rounds to check on the status of his or her employees.

Rounding is all about gathering information in a structured way. It's a way to get a handle on problems before they occur and to reinforce positive and profitable behaviors.

In a business setting, rounding involves leaders' taking an hour a day to touch base with their employees, make personal connections, find out what's going well, and determine what improvements can be made. Studer cites five critical things employees want from their leaders, and explains how rounding can help accomplish them:

1. Employees want a manager who cares about and values them. The top reason people leave their jobs is because they don't feel valued. What's more, people don't leave their 'team,' they leave their direct supervisor. Taking the time every day to make a connection with employees and respond to their needs counteracts that perception.

2. Employees want systems that work and the tools and equipment to do the job. While rounding, ask employees if they have the tools and equipment to do their jobs today. If they say no, you can fix the problem immediately.

3. Employees want opportunities for professional development. Rounding is a natural avenue for discovering whose skill sets need improvement and for instigating professional development discussions.

And it provides opportunities to help high performers move forward. Studer advises telling high performers, "We want to keep you in our organization and are committed to helping you excel personally and professionally. Is there any training you believe would be helpful for you?"

4. Employees want to be recognized and rewarded for doing a good job. A big part of the rounding process involves asking people who among their peers is demonstrating exceptional performance--and then passing the compliments on. It's a great way to build morale.

5. Employees don't want to work with low performers. Nothing makes employees as discouraged and resentful as having to co-exist with people who don't pull their own weight. In fact, low performers usually drive high performers right out the door. Rounding naturally solves this problem.

"When you're in touch with all your employees on a daily basis, it doesn't take long to see which employees are slacking off or making life difficult for everyone else," says Studer. "Sometimes people will tell you outright. Of course, once you find out who the low performers are, you have to move them up or out. It's not easy, but it's absolutely necessary."

Here's how to get started with rounding, Studer says:

1. Give your employees a heads-up. Before you start rounding, tell employees what you plan to do. Employees tend to get jumpy when a manager changes his or her behavior.

Tell them up front, "I want to be a better leader and I need your help. I am here to recognize and reward people and to find out what's working well in this company and what's not working so well."

2. Prepare a scouting report. Start with a basic knowledge of what the current problems are. For instance, if you know a department is short-staffed, put it on the report. This way, when you start rounding, you'll be able to talk intelligently about the issues.

3. Make a personal connection. Ask an employee how her sick mother is doing or how a child did on college entrance exams. This is relationship-building. Be genuine.

4. Mention an issue he or she raised during your last rounding visit. Show the employee that you have solved the problem or that you are working on it.

5. Ask these five questions, keeping your tone and words as positive as possible:

  • What's working well today?
  • Are there any individuals I should be recognizing?
  • Do you have the tools and equipment you need to do your job?
  • Is there anything we, the leaders, could do better?
  • What else would you like me to know?

6. When someone brings up a problem, assure the person you'll try to resolve it. Obviously, there will be circumstances you can't control. But people appreciate knowing you'll try. Sincere effort goes a long way.

7. Record issues that arise in a rounding log. This will help you keep what needs to be done "top of mind." It will also help you hardwire the process into your company. Writing things down makes it more likely that they'll get done, and it makes things seem more official.

8. Recognize/reward those identified by peers as high performers. This might mean conveying a sincere word of thanks--citing the person who complimented him or her--or it might even be a small bonus.

9. Repeat. Round daily, if possible. Do it several times a week at least. Don't lose momentum.