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Attention to small details: A big factor for success?

Although big, strategic thinking is essential for any organisation, the need to also get the small details right should not be overlooked. These factors can have a disproportionate effect on staff motivation and wellbeing, and on the success of the organisation.

The manager-employee relationship is often shaped less by strategic matters than by the nature of interactions that ultimately determine how people feel about each other. Manners, for example, can have a significant impact on motivation. Do people show consideration by recognising the impact of their actions on others? Proper timekeeping and not disturbing colleagues with too much unnecessary noise or distractions may be beneficial in many instances.

How people talk to each other is clearly important, and the value of small talk should not be dismissed if people are to remain fully engaged in the life of the organisation. But a balance will need to be struck between providing an opportunity for chatting and sharing experiences, and getting down to work. There will always be a challenge for managers to know when to steer people toward the most effective use of their time at work.

The physical environment can also impact upon motivation levels. One issue to consider could be office design, and whether it reflects the hierarchical structure or is more open plan. Similarly important are the facilities that people use, for example the car parks, toilets, canteens and vending machines, which can be the focus of niggling and persistent grievances.

The dress code, if there is one, can raise equality and diversity issues. Any employer operating a dress code should be sensitive to the cultural and religious needs of employees and ensure that they don't treat one sex less favourably than the other.

Acas' work with companies who felt their staff may be becoming disengaged has found that by sorting out frequently discussed things like the queues to get out of the car park at lunchtimes, or the lack of an internal phone directory, organisations can show staff that they are serious about dealing with their concerns.

These 'quick wins' demonstrate to staff that their employer is listening to their feedback and reassures them that their voice will be heard on more critical issues too. As one Acas adviser said, 'It is often fairly simple ideas that can make the biggest difference to peoples' working lives'.

Acas offers training on The route to successful employee engagement, which is one of our Staff retention courses and has produced the Advisory booklet - The People Factor - engage your employees for business success, which discusses the importance of getting the details right, and many other factors that contribute to staff engagement. Acas Workshops, projects and business solutions specialists can visit your organisation, diagnose issues in your workplace and offer tailored training and support.

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