How to shape open text questions

Open text questions let team members share ideas, opinions, and concerns. They are great as an end question because they open the door to conversations. 

 

Team members can type and send a comment to answer open text questions. They can also send an image.

Below are 9 guidelines to help you shape your open questions.

1. Keep it simple and inclusive (low reading age)

Questions need to make sense to a wide audience. Use simple language so that everyone can take part. Here are a few tips to lower the reading age of your questions:

  • Avoid adverbs. These are commonly words that end in 'ly' (e.g. efficiently, quickly)
  • Use active voice rather than passive voice
  • The fewer and simpler the words the better.
  • Don't choose 'utilise' when you can choose 'use'.

💡  Tip: Use the Hemingway App to check the reading age of your statement. Try to form a statement that has a reading age of Grade 6 or below.

Good: What could we can change to reduce the number of repeat visits?

Not so good: What are some systems and processes that we could adjust in order to effectively reduce the number of times we return to a customer site?


2. Questions must be comfortable

Questions need to be comfortable to answer. They also need to be comfortable for the leaders replying to feedback. Team members should never have to rate their leader or their leader's behaviour. This is uncomfortable for team members. It also has the potential to bruise leaders' egos. Shape questions that focus on the outcomes of leader behaviour e.g. clarity.

Good: Is there anything you need to clarify about the restructure?

Not so good: How do you feel about the level of clarity your manager has provided you about the restructure?


3. Ask only one thing

Avoid using 'and' or 'or' within your statements. If you have used 'and' or 'or' then your question is likely to be asking about more than one thing. Questions need to ask about one thing so that team members can rate one thing at a time. If you want team members to rate two things, use two rated statements.

Good: How do you like to receive feedback?
What ideas do have to improve our feedback culture?

Not so good: How do you like to receive feedback and in what ways can we improve our feedback culture?


4. Avoid ambiguity

Make sure that there is only one way to interpret your question. That way, there will be consistency in the way the question gets answered. It will also avoid confusion for those answering.

Good: What potential problems do you see with the restructure?

Not so good: What potential problems do you see?


5. Questions need to be relevant to everyone

Make sure your questions are relevant to all of your audience. This will avoid confusion and ensure that everyone can take part. 

Good: Would anything help you perform your role better?

Not so good: Which office tools would help you perform your role better?


6. Questions should align to positive and negative scores

Open text questions are commonly asked after rated statements. Open text questions need to align with whatever score gets selected (0-10).

Good: I have opportunities to perform my role the way I think is best.
Is there anything you'd like to do differently in your role?

Not so good: I have opportunities to perform my role the way I think is best.
What opportunities are lacking?


7. Questions should drive immediate action

Shape questions that a team member and leader can action together. Questions can ask about individual preferences or needs, crowdsource ideas for change and improvement, and prompt reflection. These types of questions drive action and enable team members to be a part of their own change.

Good: Would anything help you perform your role better?

Not so good: What can your leader do to help you perform your role better?


8. Use different tones for different uses

There are two types of responders in Joyous: direct leaders, and dedicated responders. Dedicated responders will typically be area managers, subject matter experts, or coaches.

For direct leader responders, shape questions that sound like the leader has asked the question. This makes it easy for team members and their leaders to have conversations.

For dedicated responders, you can use questions that sound like they came from the organisation. These types of questions are good for getting ideas and opinions about systems, processes, and operations.

Leader tone: If you could learn anything within the next six months, what would you like to learn?

Organisation tone: What could ACME do better to help its people learn and develop?


9. Avoid yes/no
questions

Avoid questions that can be answered with a yes or no. Keep them open to encourage a conversation.

Good: Is there anything more you'd like to learn about our new operating software?

Not so good: Have you been sufficiently trained in our new operating software?

 

Don't know where to start?

Here are a few question starters to get you going:

Action-oriented questions

  • Is there anything...
  • Would anything...
  • Are there any...
  • Do you have any [questions, ideas, concerns]...
  • What would help...
  • What is one thing... 
  • Are there any...
  • What could you do... 
  • How might you...
  • What changes would...
  • What would be...

 

Crowdsourcing questions

  • Do you have any ideas...
  • How might we...
  • What might we...
  • What is the...
  • What [thoughts/ideas] do you have about...
  • What do you think...
  • Do you see any...
  • What is an...
  • What aspects of our

 

Preference questions

  • How do you like...
  • What would you like...
  • What does [respect/feeling valued] look like for you?...
  • What is your ideal...
  • Do you have any...
  • What is the most...
  • How often do you like to...
  • What is the best...

 

Reflection questions

  • Can you think of a time when...
  • What has X been like?