Once upon a time in corporate America people actually liked going to work every day. They enjoyed the camaraderie of their co-workers, and they truly believed their work was making a difference, not only in the organization, but also in the world. Likewise, the company took care of its people, listened to them, and provided for them with such things as pensions and benefits. A hard eight hours of work was rewarded with a steady paycheck. It was truly a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Today, this past reality is nothing more than a fairy tale, and both employees and employers know it. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, 70% of people don’t like their job. In addition, employees at all levels feel there is no trust or loyalty in their company. Many people feel as though they must "watch their back" at all times, resulting in high turnover, high stress and declining productivity.
If you want to retain your key talent, increase customer satisfaction, and boost your company’s bottom line, then you need to focus on reestablishing trust and loyalty in your organization. Why? Because studies have shown that there is a direct and positive correlation between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. That is, when your employees are satisfied with what they’re doing, they in turn direct those positive feelings to the customer, who rewards you with more business. Additionally, happy employees are stable employees, meaning they won’t jump ship and go to work for your competitor after you’ve spent all that time and money training them.
The question then remains, "How do you build trust and loyalty in an economic environment that is very different from those ‘fairy tale’ days and that has slimmer margins and greater competition?"
The answer boils down to communication, both what you communicate and how you do it. The following guidelines will help you build better communications, thus increasing both trust and loyalty.
Schedule "face time" with each employee. Today it seems that technology has gotten in the way of communications. Many managers and business owners would rather send an email or leave a voice mail than actually talk to their staff face-to-face. But realize that your employees need real-time communication from you, and they need to actually talk to you in person.
Even if your company has a thousand employees, each manager or department head needs to schedule face time with their people. During these face-to-face meetings you need to uncover your employees’ passions and contributions. This is important, because many employees today feel they aren’t contributing and using their real talents. When that occurs, disloyalty and mistrust are bound to happen. People feel as though they’re just punching a clock and that they don’t have any real input. The bottom line is that if you or your management team doesn’t help your employees understand where the organization is going, then your employees will never feel that they’re working in an environment of trust and loyalty.
Choose appropriate communication channels. In all companies you have different levels and various types of employees. For example, you may have front counter sales clerks, accountants in the back office, district managers out in the field and vice presidents in the corporate office. Each of these groups of people views the world very differently and has a unique perspective on company information. In order to ensure that all employees not only get your message but also understand it, you have to first determine which channel to use to communicate with each group. You can’t just blast an e-mail out or send newsletters.
Some of your employees, such as the clerks behind the counter, may not even use a work computer, much less receive e-mails. Therefore, you will likely need to communicate to various departments in different ways to make sure everyone is on the same page and aware of the company’s commitment to building trust and loyalty.
Offer acknowledgment and praise often. When it comes to building trust and loyalty, some companies believe the best approach is to offer new things, such as added health benefits, modest daycare allowances, in-store massages or parties after a stressful holiday season. While these things may "buy" people’s trust and loyalty for the short term, when it comes to long-term results, such an approach fails miserably.
Realize that what people really want is to be acknowledged for a job well done. People want their opinions to matter. They want to feel valued. Acknowledgement and praise are the best ways to help people realize how important they are to the organization, and this approach goes much further than any dollar amount ever could. Therefore, make it a point to catch people doing something good, and then bring it to everyone’s attention. Publicly congratulate people for meeting goals and deadlines, and for going the extra mile. When people feel appreciated, they’ll be more loyal.
Be honest. Every company and industry faces bad news and challenging times. Employees know this and expect it. So when something negative is happening and it impacts your company, be upfront about it. People would rather you tell them the truth than lie to them or sugar-coat the facts. Even if you’re sugar-coating information in an attempt to protect your employees, they’ll still feel that they’re being lied to. On top of that, the grapevine has a tendency to twist facts even more, making people feel that the company is being deceitful. To avoid this, always tell the truth, even if the truth hurts. Your employees will appreciate your honesty, despite the bad news, and they’ll actually trust you more.
Walk the talk. If you want your employees to display trust and loyalty, then you and your managers need to do the same. Unfortunately, many managers and executives don’t always do what they say they’ll do. They talk about great ideas for the company, ideas that make the employees feel good and like them, but then those ideas never materialize. True leaders who inspire trust and loyalty keep their word. And since employees see their direct supervisor more often than the executive team, if the manager doesn’t trust the company or display loyalty, then that person’s staff won’t be trusting or loyal either. So make sure all your managers and executives display the behavior they want the staff to emulate. Your people are watching you and they do notice.
Cheerful Ending for All
While the fairy tales days of business may be over, you can still have a company filled with both trusting and loyal employees. In fact, the more you communicate with people, acknowledge them, and be truthful with them, the more trusting and loyal they’ll be. Remember, your job as a manager or business owner is to ignite the passion of your people. You can’t do that without communication. So take an honest interest in the talents your employees bring to the table and be a role model for the behavior and company culture you desire. Only then will you have employees who want to be with you for the long haul and who positively impact your company’s bottom line.