Running a business is tough, and you’re constantly juggling priorities. But, it’s important to understand that nothing is more important that your employees. Engaged, effective employees build winning businesses. Demoralized, disengaged employees drag the business down.

Unfortunately, many small business owners don’t give much thought to employee management, and as a result make mistakes that lead to an unhappy, unproductive workforce. Below are three of these common mistakes… are you guilty of any of them?

  • Putting policies ahead of people. When you have thousands of employees, it’s usually necessary to implement rigid policies. Until then, you should take advantage of your smaller size and focus on relationships both with your customers and your employees. If someone needs to leave early, take a vacation day, or spend a little extra time on things other than business, accommodate them as much as you can. Your employees are likely to repay your kindness by watching your back and putting in extra time when you need them to.
  • Not providing proper training or instruction. Your employees may be smart but they aren’t mind-readers. Make sure you are clear in your instructions, that they understand what you are expecting, and that they have what they need to produce the desired results. Otherwise, you are setting your employees up to fail, and that’s not good for you or for them.
  • Underestimating the value of relationships among your employees. Make your workplace a fun environment— encourage strong relationships between coworkers.  Whether it’s occasional after-work events or simply eating lunch together, everyone benefits when employees genuinely like each other. That doesn’t mean that they all need to be best friends or that they should spend company time telling stories or being otherwise unproductive, but do your best to create a fun and pleasant environment.

You need to get the most out of your employees. But sometimes that means relaxing your grip on the reins just a bit and remaining flexible. Of course you need to draw the line somewhere… but remember, employees that enjoy coming to work each morning are going to be much more productive and effective.

How do you keep your employees engaged and motivated? Are there any painful lessons that you’ve learned along the way? Share your thoughts below!