Fostering employee loyalty is essential for the long-term success of any business. Not only will it decrease turnover costs, it can also boost productivity, increase efficiency, and provide a much more stable work environment for everyone. When employees begin to build a sense of loyalty, they begin to empathize with their management or the company as a whole. They begin to see the priorities of the business as their own and may even (to some extent) place the needs of the business above their own. This means you’ll get better results, increased employee satisfaction, and better employee relations. But building loyalty is a tricky thing—it’s intangible. Below you’ll find ten steps that will help you do just that.
1. Increase Confidence in Leadership
The results of a 2003 Darwin Survey of mid-level management show that one of the most important components of employee loyalty is confidence in leadership. Your employees want to feel that the management team knows what it’s doing and they want to work for a company that is at least trying to be the best in its field. To do this, you have to ensure that your personal game is at its best. Take every opportunity you can to become better at what you do. Seek training, encourage feedback, and look for ways to maximize your own potential. When employees see the management team excelling and the company doing well, that positive energy will flow downhill and enthuse even the most jaded employee.
2. Improve Company Culture
Company culture is really a combination of the personal interaction between management and employees and personal interaction between employees. There is a certain amount of job competency that comes into play but generally it’s more about attitudes, personalities, and how well we all get along. As a manager, it’s your responsibility to keep your finger on the pulse of the company’s culture and address any interpersonal problems that arise without “meddling” in personal affairs. The first step is modeling good behavior yourself. Weed out the cattiness, the “bad days,” and personal prejudices. Next, look at your management team and then employees. If necessary call out (privately) individual employees and explain to them that poor attitudes and bad behavior will not be tolerated.
3. Manage Employee Engagement
Kyle LaMalfa, Loyalty Expert and Allegiance Best Practices Manager, says that employee engagement is the number one component of loyalty. While LaMalfa recommends using actual analytical tools like the Likert Scale (a numerical scale of agreement) small business managers can generally get a feel for engagement without impersonal surveys. Just keep your eyes and ears open. Listen to the water cooler gossip, watch who participates during meetings and training sessions, see who does the lion’s share of the work during co-op projects, get to know your employees on a personal (or at least individual) level. And because engagement plays across all aspects of an employee’s performance, you can use “secret shoppers” (even in non-retail organizations) to get an unbiased sneak peek into how customers view your company through the interactions they have with your employees.
4. Enhance Education and Equipment
Frustration is insidious. Once it sets in, it’s incredibly hard to weed out and, like a pebble in your shoe, only seems to create more problems the longer it’s in there. One of the most common sources of employee frustration is not having adequate training or resources to get the job done. If you’re constantly throwing employees into situations in which they don’t feel comfortable or expecting them to meet goals with broken, outdated, or less-than-useful equipment, there will be problems. And those problems—no matter what you might like to think—are your responsibility.
Use solutions that will reduce friction for both you and your employees. For example, does the employee schedule cause a lot issues between managers and employees? Give them an easier way to communicate and manage the schedule with employee scheduling software. Does the POS system fail repeatedly? Make the investment to upgrade the equipment and you’ll see the improvement in attitudes and goals.
5. Structured Dispute Resolution
When problems arise, how well you deal with them plays an important part on shaping your employee’s attitudes. Having a structured system of dispute resolution is essential for creating a fair and balanced management style. If your employees know exactly what to expect during the dispute process, they’re more likely to accept the outcome whether they “like” it or not. On the other hand, if your dispute system is the least bit arbitrary, you’ll find yourself facing charges of favoritism, exclusion, and possibly even discrimination.
6. Nip Problems in the Bud
You don’t want issues to fester until they explode like hand grenades in the break room. Keep your eyes and ears open (and tell your management to do the same). Look for warning signs before things come to a head. And when you spot an issue, deal with it sooner than later but deal with it fairly.
7. Maintain Neutrality
Fairness is a function of neutrality. Calvin Sun of TechRepublic maintains that neutrality can be a manager’s best friend. When an employee comes to you with a problem or concern, your immediate response may be either to join their cause or to shoot down their concern without a second thought. However, this puts you in the position of compatriot rather than supervisor. While employees want to feel they can approach their boss, you must set yourself apart and look at the issue objectively. By doing so you can not only zero in on what’s best for the company, you can see what needs to be done in order to put the employee’s mind at ease without playing favorites. Remember, you’re the boss and employees don’t have to like your orders, they just have to respect them.
8. Give and Expect to Receive Respect
Respect is a two-way street and while many managers demand it of their employees, they often “play” at giving it back. Employees can see through false statements and deeds like radar through fog. The last thing you want is for everyone under you to tag you as a fake. That’s why everything you do—good or bad—should always be genuine. Relate to your employees on a more equal plane and give them, their suggestions, and their personal lives the respect they deserve without spouting platitudes.
9. Avoid Micromanagement
Part of earning an employee’s loyalty is showing them that you trust them to do their job. If you’re constantly looking over their shoulder, you’re not letting them grow. While taking charge of everything may seem like a good idea, it’s a surefire way to generate animosity and distrust in your subordinates. Instead, set reachable goals, ensure employees have the skills and resources to get the job done, and give feedback during and after the fact in order to mold performance positively.
10. Reward Appropriately
Rewards can be powerful loyalty builders but they must be appropriate to the action or else they’ll create an impression of imbalance or unfairness. Be sure to reward your employees liberally (either with praise or simple “freebies”), but ensure the reward matches the deed.
Every little Bit Counts
You don’t have to implement all of these practices at once. Start small and work up from there. Loyalty builds cumulatively—employees gradually respond to changes in behavior, management style, and company performance. So every little bit, every positive action, every improvement, every appropriate response to a challenge adds up. It’s important to take stock of where you’re at, where you want to be, and how you plan to get there but it’s more important to act. Build on good behaviors and go forward from there.10 Steps to Increasing Employee Loyalty Chad Halvorson