Wood Words

Tips for Keeping Your Best Employees: Small things make a big difference to your people

Have you ever:

  • Mispronounced an employee’s name (despite the fact that he’s worked for you for five years)?
  • Rolled your eyes when a team member shared a potential solution to a problem (regardless of whether or not the solution was viable)?
  • Left a co-worker out of an email loop on a critical project (when the information you were sharing would’ve been helpful to him)?

Small slights like these can lead to big problems with your business. As a manager, you send dozens of powerful “micromessages” every time you speak or gesture. While an employee may dismiss the occasional perceived slight as insignificant, over time these messages have a cumulative effect.

And with massive talent shortages on the horizon, you need to be aware of seemingly insignificant things that can drive your best people out the door. Use these tips from Wood Personnel to make sure your communication (both verbal and non-verbal) is positive and motivating:

  • Talk about it. Spend a few minutes during your next meeting letting employees know that you take “the little things” seriously – and that their satisfaction with your management practices is important.
  • Survey employees. Not sure what bothers your employees? Distribute a simple, anonymous survey to gather feedback. Ask employees what managers do that sets them off. Look for evidence of negative, dismissive or negligent patterns of behavior that need to be addressed.
  • Train supervisors. Training is a great way to make managers more aware (and more in control) of unconscious behaviors that demoralize your staff. Have your team role-play situations demonstrating both attentive/supportive management behaviors and dismissive/negative ones. Ask managers to make notes of the verbal and non-verbal messages they see, and then use those as a starting point for follow-up training. The goal of this training should be to make supervisors more aware of how and what they’re subtly communicating to their team, every day – and how to make those communications more positive.
  • Habitualize positive micromessaging. Once your managers are more aware of “the little things” that matter to employees, brainstorm ways to keep those micromessages positive. Make a list of small actions supervisors can take each day to keep employees motivated. Help them habitualize activities like: making direct eye contact; encouraging participation from all employees; communicating interest nonverbally; asking questions to develop rapport; recognizing the contributions of all workers. Little positive gesture like these may seem insignificant on their own. In time, however, they’ll produce a giant return on investment – improving employee retention, and creating a more engaged workforce that is motivated to perform for you.