Are you unintentionally neglecting great employees because they don't work hard to be noticed?
Some employees are just quiet. They might be great at their jobs, even have potential for promotion. But if they aren't comfortable speaking up or showing off, they might fly under your radar and miss out on opportunities in favor of more boisterous, if less qualified, co-workers.
Employees can't totally abdicate responsibility for getting their good work noticed, but as their boss, you can help them out.
Keep an eye out for the introverts on your team, so they don't get lost in the noise. Pay attention to why they don't feel comfortable speaking up, what you can do to encourage them to get noticed and how you might detect the skills they don't flaunt.
Why are they so quiet?
Your employees might not speak up because:
They're shy. They might simply hate being noticed, and it's not your job to change that personality trait but, instead, to learn to work with it.
The environment doesn't encourage them. This one falls squarely on you -- the boss -- and your company. Your best employees can't shine if the culture squashes participation through strict hierarchies and closed-door decision-making.
Louder employees suck all the air from the room. A few extroverted employees might make the rest feel unneeded or unwelcome.
They feel unqualified. Strong employees might not speak up because they're intimidated by other talent in the room.
How to help them be seen
Depending on the reasons, here are a few ways to encourage your quietest employees to participate and showcase their skills so others on the team can appreciate them:
Offer a variety of ways to be heard. You'll probably never hear from quiet employees if the only way to speak up at your company is to lead a meeting or ask a question in front of a group. Set up spaces, like Slack channels and one-on-one meetings, that support introverts so they can get involved without pretending to be extroverted.
Prepare them to be in the spotlight. Your efforts to help a quiet employee show off will likely fall flat if you put them on the spot. Instead, prep them; for example, let them know before a meeting you're going to call on them to provide their expertise.
Give them opportunities to be helpful. Before large meetings at The Penny Hoarder, my bosses often ask a few employees to ask questions to set the tone of participation for the rest of the staff, especially our newest employees. Pinging your quiet employees to do this lets them showcase their usefulness to a large group with sufficient preparation.
Ways to spot talent that's flying under your radar
Not sure which of your quiet employees might have unearthed potential? Here are a few ways to find out:
Pay attention to internal communication and project management tools. Where do your employees collaborate? Pop in once in a while to see how the conversations go. Look for people asking clarifying questions, following up with the team, making smart suggestions and hitting all their deadlines.
Sit in on meetings. Pop into meetings you don't normally attend. If you come in unannounced, you could catch employees who are more comfortable speaking up in smaller groups of people they work closely with.
Chat them up one-on-one (and pay attention). Outside of a formal meeting, check-in or review, just chat with your employees; it doesn't have to be about work. Quiet folks who don't speak up in meetings might have smart things to say when the pressure's off.
Develop a variety of check-in methods. At The Penny Hoarder, we have manager-employee one on ones, team meetings, Slack, written weekly updates and all-hands meetings. The variety gives ample opportunity for employees to showcase their performance regardless of their communication style.
Give them challenging tasks. Don't be afraid to test them! Don't be a jerk about it, but give your employees a challenge if you think you haven't seen the best of them. How (or whether) they tackle it will give you a lot of information about their potential.
Ask them tough questions. This could be one on one or (if they're prepared) in a group. Ask for their input on something a little outside their comfort zone, and see how they handle it.
Your best employees aren't always the ones you notice the most. Don't leave it entirely to them to get your attention. Instead, keep your finger on the pulse to spot great talent in shy employees.