It is a two-way process, a give-and-take based on mutual respect. There is a picture in our minds of a while-collar worker who is loyal to the company out of gratitude for the chance to earn a living.
What does loyalty mean?
The whole notion of handing over a gold watch as a sign of thanks for loyalty to a retiring employee has been thrown out of the window. Where are the employers who actually show such a mark of thanks? The majority of employees will bend over backwards for a boss who respects them. They will be honest, and feel fulfilled. The result of employee loyalty for the organisation is reduced staff turnover, fewer hours spent on training new staff, and a stable workplace where relationships are forged over time.
A well-heeled British resident, while not in business as such, always ‘does things locally’. She does her grocery shopping, employs handymen and entertains guests in the village she lives. She understands the need to create a reciprocal relationship, call it back-scratching if you will. The fact that she will also make it a point to tell you why she does it, opens your eyes to her motives, and helps you to appreciate it. She not only became a respected member of her community, but villagers ended up gladly helping her out at the least moment’s notice.
Talk is precious
The norm is that employees enter a job with the intention to be loyal. They are loyal until it is beaten out of them. Most will actually take years of ill-treatment before they leave – but make no bones about it, everyone they come across will learn that XYZ Ltd is a lousy place to work.
A disgruntled ex-employee will badmouth your company till the end of their days. And your organisation will obtain a reputation that will put off potential gifted workers from joining. There is one huge local group that has a reputation for dismissing employees when they are in their 50s. Would anyone in their 40s looking for stability, risk their career and happiness on such an organisation?
A 70-year-old restaurant owner has rather outmoded ideas about loyalty: he won’t discontinue using a particular service provider simply because he can get the goods cheaper elsewhere. Yet this is an old-fashioned notion that his children cannot understand. He puts a greater value on the regular and steady provision of goods than on its actual price. Nor does he close the restaurant in winter, when business is slow and heavy overheads mean he is eating away at profits made during the summer. In this way, he still manages to provide employment for his cleaner and waiters. When the cleaner recently asked for a pay rise, he explained to her that he could give her one, but that he’d have to reduce her hours in winter when there were fewer customers. She understood the situation, and stayed on.
When employer and employee play together, they are more likely to stay together. Bonding at the office is a ‘clanning’ trend that offers a sense of security in an increasingly fragmented and speeded-up world. Loyalty is fostered by gestures of unity and group pride. Picture the group of enthusiastic employees at Nike who are so fervent in their commitment to the company that they’ve each had the Nike logo tattooed on their body. Another example of clanning is Microsoft’s Seattle headquarters, where the boundaries between work and family have all but dissolved. Managers gain loyalty not just by financially rewarding their employees, but by making them friends.
Small things count
Your path to creating employee loyalty starts with a very simple point of departure. Are you a ‘nice’ person? Employers who don’t even take the time to say ‘good morning’ to their staff are planting seeds of resentment every day. Each of us needs to be acknowledged and respected, to be noticed – at the very least.
A company called Innocent that produces juices was in fact highlighted as an example of a new way to do business in the Sunday Times (UK). ‘Innocent treats its staff like heroes. There is an annual snowboarding holiday, a 2,000 cash gift to every baby born to an Innocent staffer, and a cheese club once a month. On Friday evenings the company encourages staff to leave early by putting a couple of hundred quid behind the bar at the local.”
Innocent’s co-founder, Richard Reed, says: “In business, we are ruthlessly nice. We are a pretty nave bunch of people employing people like us – people who would never work for a tobacco company – and that just keeps working in our favour. We met some people from Unilever who were interested in how we do business. We said: ‘Be natural, be nice’. They asked, ‘how do you implement that strategy of being nice?’ Need you be reminded to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’? Your staff knows that anything you ask for is not a request – it is a command – but a ‘please’ makes it all the more sweet a pill to swallow, because it shows your appreciation.
If you cannot manage an expression of gratitude for individual jobs completed, a ‘thank you’ at the end of each day is the least you can do. Think back to the last time you thanked an employee hopefully it’s not just for your morning coffee. The One Minute Manager recommends public statements of gratitude and ‘prosits‘ and short private words when reprimanding a mistake.
In the corporate setting, where performance assessment is the norm, and `employee development’ an important goal, `constructive criticism’ is often resorted to – identifying faults, disguised as areas for improvement.
People leave jobs because they don’t feel respected, not because of salary, says business consultant Dottie Bruce Gandy.
30 Days to a happy employee
In her book 30 Days to a happy employee: How a Simple Program of Acknowledgement Can Build Trust and Loyalty at Work, she shows employers how to work with employees to improve communications, while consciously praising accomplishments. Gandy’s thesis is that employees perform far better when their strengths are highlighted, and they re given credit for, and the freedom to exploit, their own capabilities, dreams and desires.
Picture the managing director whose staff has had to come in on a public holiday. He saunters in at 3pm in shorts and T-shirt, a new layer of suntan on his cheeks, and says, ‘Hi, I’ve just come off the yacht.’ If he’d only stopped to think, he might have brought them pastizzi and a crate of drinks, and he’d have created a good memory for them. Instead, they’ll talk about his lack of tact every time they become disgruntled. Michael Feiner, a consultant and management professor at Columbia Graduate School of Business and former chief people officer at Pepsi-Cola, in his book, Laws That Will Make People Want to Perform Better for You” illustrates how loyalty can help both managers and employees thrive.
“Staff cut you a lot of slack if you really give a darn about them. Successful bosses often lead by listening instead of just ordering people around,” Feiner explained. When an employee asked to skip a meeting because he had a commitment to his children, Feiner spent hours with him getting briefed so that he could fill in. Feiner also remembers how one of his bosses insisted on opening his mail when Feiner was asking important questions. Feiner recalled. “I felt like an inanimate object.”
Too good to be true
Faith Popcorn, the CEO at BrainReserve, is supremely sensitive to the needs of her staff, going that extra mile to help them manage their time and lives in a way that makes sense of each of them – and for the company. In her book Evolution, she explains how every possible service is brought to the office. Not only food, but hairstylists, manicurists, grocery and pharmacy deliveries, dry cleaning pickups, an accountant, and even a masseuse. All appointments are made for staff, even helping to set up driving licence and passport renewals. Any of the staff and spouses is welcome to a guestroom on a late work night, not to mention childcare on the premises.
All of this saves the company time, reduces stress, increases productivity and makes people feel considered and secure. This bonds employees to the company. Yes, it almost goes without saying that you have to be fair when it comes to perks, honest at all times, give each employee what you promised, and provide a safe and healthy work environment, but loyalty flourishes when there is an extra element of caring and sharing. It is that which renders the person paramount within the workplace.
After working very hard to attract gifted people, spending a lot of time and money teaching them the organisation’s ethos, by supporting them in the non-work areas of their lives, you can ensure that they’ll stay forever.
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