How to Avoid Being Your Company's Biggest Problem

by Kevin Casey on March 6, 2012
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Ever get the feeling your workers would rather be doing anything other than working? Do you have unusually high turnover? If the answer to either question is yes, it could be that you’re hiring the wrong people. But it could also very well be you. In a small-business environment, there aren’t many (if any) other people to blame when there’s a management problem.

The Intuit Small Business Blog recently caught up with human-resources professional Steve Browne to find out what you might be doing to dampen morale or drive people out the door — and what you can do to solve the problems.

ISBB: Why do my employees have one eye on their jobs and the other on the Exit sign?

Browne: I think that employees may do this for a couple of reasons. One, the company doesn’t try to engage them in their roles and how they connect to the business. Two, the company doesn’t value their work and contributions.

Which management mistakes are magnified in small-business environments?

The most significant mistake that management makes is being inconsistent with employees. You see companies trying a “one size fits all” approach to employees, and this completely overlooks their unique capabilities and strengths. By doing this, management can’t address individual situations because they’re trapped by an overarching policy that tries to fit everyone in the same way.

What else?

There is a lack of positive feedback in the workplace. When employees receive feedback, it is usually based on what they aren’t doing instead of acknowledging their accomplishments. Performance reviews are a related pitfall. Similar to a lack of feedback, the majority of reviews are built on “fixing” what people aren’t doing instead of focusing on and leveraging their strengths. People don’t like to have these meetings and neither do managers, because little comes from them.

I want to thank my team, but I have zero budget. What do I do?

Recognition doesn’t have to cost a dime. The fact is that by making the time to recognize my staff, I will have more productivity and effort from them. If they know they are my team, literally, then they’ll do amazing things. Also, you can be creative and find low-cost solutions, such as a “team player” award for accomplishments above and beyond the normal scope of business. These need to be consistent, but they can be very effective.

Any other management advice or tips for small-business owners?

Truly focus on the contributions of your employees. Look at your systems to see whether they work through or in spite of the people you have. Don’t treat employees as assets, treat them as humans. Finally, get connected and networked with HR pros who can help you as a small business. You can find great resources through local SHRM chapters or blogs, for example, that don’t involve hiring a consultant.

Kevin Casey is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.

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