Ask an expert: What your employees really want to hear from you

Small phrases can make a world of difference for employees’ motivation, commitment and productivity.

They’d never bring it up themselves, but there are certain phrases your employees really want to hear from you. Some have to do with affirmation; others centre on encouragement, reassurance, respect, gratitude or trust. When you verbalize these things, you will notice a big change in your employees’ motivation, commitment and productivity.

"How is your family?" Showing genuine interest and caring is the greatest motivator I know. When you dare to get personal, your employees’ desire to please you will skyrocket.

"What would you like to do here?" Whenever possible, keep job descriptions fluid and allow employees to have a say in matching their skills to the company’s needs. This is one of the best ways to build loyalty and encourage your employees to really take ownership of their jobs.

"I noticed what you did." Your team members want to know that you notice and value the mundane parts of their jobs, not just the big wins and achievements. Make it your mission to "catch" as many of your employees as possible in a good act. Then, point out exactly what it is about their behaviour that you appreciate.

"What do you think?" Employees who are told what to do feel like numbers or cogs in a machine. Often, their performance will be grudging and uninspired. Make your employees feel like valued partners by asking them for their opinions, ideas and preferences.

"This task is in your hands — I’m stepping back." Once you’ve delegated a task, step back and let your employees do what you’ve asked of them. Remind yourself that you hired your team for a reason, that you have faith in their potential and that if they do need help, they know where to find you.