5 Questions Top HR Leaders Should Be Asking

Guest Post by Kathy Rapp

As HR pros, our daily lives are surrounded by questions. Interview questions. Investigation questions. Comp questions. Why-would- an-employee-pee-on-the-bathroom-wall questions.

Have you ever taken time to think about more impactful questions? You know, the one you start to rattle off an answer to and then BAM–you realize this one may take a bit more thought. Inc. ran an article about the Greatest Questions leaders ask.

“The right questions don’t allow people to remain passive. They require reflection, followed by action.”

There were a number of good ones and here are my top 5 for HR leaders.

I challenge you to ask them in your HR organization.

1.  Did my employees make progress today?

This question comes from a Harvard Business School professor/author who talks about forward movement as a motivator. We all have days where we feel like we’ve accomplished squat; don’t you feel a difference on the days your “to-do” list gets a bit shorter, or you make significant headway towards a goal?! Ensuring your employees have that kind of momentum is key to their engagement.

2.  What did we miss in the interview for the worst hire we ever made?

Asked the CEO of Zumba Fitness–so guessing his answer may be, “The person was way overweight?” OK. So probably not, but I’m sure it was along the same lines of, “This person didn’t align with our fitness culture.” Almost all of my (one) bad hiring mistakes were due to cultural fit. Didn’t have the work-ethic required of a start-up. Didn’t have the political savvy to navigate a highly matrixed organization. Didn’t like recruiting.

3.  Among our stronger employees, how many see themselves at the company in three years?

How many would leave for a 10 percent raise? Coming from a Google adviser, this is an interesting question. Your own answer probably depends on how quickly the company is growing, how often you can find challenging assignments and if you love your boss. If all three are in place and you’ve been financially rewarded as appropriate, you’ll probably sit tight.

4.  If no one would find out about my accomplishments, how would I lead differently?

I love this one. It comes from a professor/author at Wharton and he really made me reflect. In a world of social media, selfies and status updates–what would you change if no one knew? Could you change? Do you need to change?

5.  What is it like to work for me?

I’d love the unfiltered answer to this one as would most who manage people. An author and management professor at Stanford asked it–what an outstanding lesson to teach business school grads, especially those who may come out thinking they have all the answers. I bet it’s tough at times to work for me and it’s those “times” I need to ponder on a bit more.

I noticed 3 of the 5 questions I was drawn to came from business school professors, yet I didn’t feel they were academic in nature. Each had a pragmatic vibe to me; they weren’t questions for the sake of questions.

Are you moved by any of these? If so, reflect and then act.




Kathy Rapp is the Senior Vice-President of hrQ, an award-winning professional services firm focused exclusively on HR Search, Interim HR Staffing and HR Consulting.  In addition to writing hrQ’s hrQuips, she also writes for Inc.comFistful of Talent and Workforce NEXT.


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