How to retain your best employees in under 15 minutes a day

May 12, 2021

Founders, if I told you that you could:

🧱 Increase productivity

♻️ Reduce turnover

🤗 Build loyalty

All in 15 minutes a day, you might think I was peddling snake oil.

There’s actually an easy way to do it.

Show gratitude.

Your best people *are* being recruited.

They’re being offered better titles, better pay, and the rush of being courted.

If you’re not making them feel recognized and valued at your company, they will take one of these offers.

Don’t lose them to a lack of attention.

I understand why founders let this slip. They have urgent fires to put out. They feel put upon by VCs, customers, and even their own teams. These are all good reasons to make appreciation a process. Start by booking 15 min a day to thank people for the work they’re doing.

I mean this literally. Block 15 minutes on your calendar *every day* and use it to find ways to thank your team. Even a specific email thank you can make a huge difference and make someone’s day.

Just a few words can make an outsized impact:

“The new slide deck looks great!”

“Your analysis of the competitive landscape was insightful.”

“I’m glad you pushed back — you raised important points!”

“This new ad copy is hilarious, and it’s converting; keep going!”

You don’t need to compliment everyone. However, assuming you are decent at recruiting, 80% of folks at your company are probably doing good work — some even excellent work. How many regrettable losses are you willing to bear over the failure to make those people feel valued?

This practice will come naturally to some, but I find it doesn’t for most. If you’re the type who is reflexively uncomfortable with this idea, it is all the more important to set up a system to make up for this costly shortcoming.

You may balk at the idea of scheduling something that should be heartfelt. Most founders will find that it soon becomes an organic habit after they make time to do this programmatically. If you focus on making the comments heartfelt, that will come through.

“Programmatic appreciation” can work wonders. It becomes contagious. When senior managers see the CEO express appreciation, they do the same. At some point, the inevitable outcome is a company with a positive culture where employees feel valued.

For those founders reading this and rolling their eyes, here’s a different frame: your employees are all working hard trying to make you a billionaire. It shouldn’t be hard to appreciate that hard work and find daily reasons to offer gratitude.

These small gestures take minutes and cost quite a bit less than a retained search to find a replacement for a single regrettable loss or the raise that you give someone to keep them at the company when they got a 50% higher offer elsewhere after feeling undervalued.

Raises, bonuses, and stock options signal appreciation in a material way, but don’t underestimate the ROI on a small act of kindness!


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