Thinking

Employees: Loyal & Engaged

Just 20 years ago employee loyalty was an almost forgone conclusion, as many people spent most of their career a one single company, rarely changing jobs. But in today’s world, and especially among younger employees, company loyalty seems to be a lost concept. This sea change leaves many companies struggling to identify ways to hire employees who will be loyal and engaged with the company—and then retain them once have them.

How do you build employee loyalty and engagement?
The truth is that the answer is far more simple than most of us would imagine. Stephen Robbins, the author of Organizational Behavior, suggests that the key to loyal and engaged employees really comes down to YOU. As a leader, you are the face of the company, and therefore your actions, behaviors and interactions with your employees shape their feelings. Employees are most loyal and engaged when they feel that there is mutual respect and when the company’s values (I.E. your values) align with their own.

How do you hire the right employee for the job?
Unfortunately, as companies grow and their hiring process becomes more formulaic, it becomes harder and harder to distinguish the employees who are aligned with your brand from those who just posses the skills to do the job. Part of this results from the recruiting and interviewing process lacking a sense of identity. Taking a lesson from the world of online dating services; it is important that we identify the characteristics of compatibility as it relates to both parties. What makes your corporate culture tick? What do other employees enjoy about working there? This may mean showing potential recruits what a day in the life of an employee is like, so they can see the inside view. Along with telling them about you, you need to identify what their motivations for wanting to work for the company are (outside of the fact that they need a job!) Just like in dating, what you’ll find is that your not-so-well-matched candidates will most likely weed themselves out, and you’ll be interviewing a much better-suited group.

Once you have them, how do you keep them?
The bad news is, employees don’t show up for day one of work as loyal to your brand; it takes time to build that relationship. The good news is, new employees are generally more open, receptive and hungry to hear your message. But it needs to come from you, their leader. Too often companies turn over employee acclamation to someone in HR who lays out a set of rules, expectations and guidelines for their time while working with the company, in rather matter-of-fact terms. However, this fails to give the employee an emotional connection that will foster a relationship built on trust and understanding—and ultimately, loyalty. It’s your job as the leader to take a vested interest in migrating your employee into the category of being a brand loyalist, and this will require you to engage them in new and interesting ways. Loyalty and engagement are not mutually exclusive ideas. In other words, by engaging your employees and holding their attention you are more likely to create a new crop of loyal employees—and loyal employees are more engaged. This is going to take some effort and creative thinking on your part.

Sharing information is a powerful tool to keep your employees engaged. Regular communications from you (their leader) will empower them, and that power leads to engaged employees.

Make your communications a two-way street. This doesn’t mean it has to be an open forum, but allow your employees to participate in shaping and crafting how you communicate with them, and they’ll take ownership in the message.

Foster an atmosphere of fun. This is probably one of the hardest things for many business leaders to do. But as it turns out, contrary to the popular “old-school” belief, a fun working atmosphere is actually a catalyst for productivity. Employees who enjoy their work environment are more likely to be loyal to their company and more engaged in helping it to succeed.

Becoming a Convert
If you’re still not a believer in the importance of employee engagement and loyalty, and your role and responsibility as the leader in shaping it, then take the example of Zappos.com, one of the fast growing online retailers in the world. The company’s core values read as such:

    1. Deliver WOW Through Service
    2. Embrace and Drive Change
    3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
    4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
    5. Pursue Growth and Learning
    6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
    7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
    8. Do More With Less
    9. Be Passionate and Determined
    10. Be Humble

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is so committed to a loyal and engaged workforce that he puts every employee through a four-week intensive training and cultural emersion training during which he offers new employee cash (up to $2,000, plus the hours they have worked) to quit on the spot! With the realization that by doing so they will never be allowed to work at the company in the future, less than 3% take the deal—and even more rarely do employees leave once they have accepted a position. Why? Because the company and its leader have invested in them to ensure they are loyal and engaged.

Try shifting how you think about employee loyalty and engagement—and get ready to reap the benefits.

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