Customer loyalty has been a buzz phrase for years. And yes, it’s still as critically important as it always has been, especially in the age of online purchases when delivery is easier than ever before. Creating customers that will choose you – time and time again – is central to your success. While customer loyalty is important, I would strongly argue that loyalty inside an organization – otherwise known as employee loyalty is as, if not more, important. When cultivated and proactively tended to, it can reap amazing profits for your organization – no matter what you are selling. If left unattended, you risk building your business on sand instead of solid ground. So, how do you give employee loyalty the deliberate focus and nurturing it deserves?
- Start with trust. When you hire someone for a role within your organization, I would assume you trust them. If you don’t, then you’ve already made a mistake. Make your hiring practices one in which you envision the new employee as an investment, not a cost. View them as a trustworthy ally, not the opposition. How you start the relationship defines how it develops.
- Culture ≠ hugs. Culture sometimes is mistaken for kindness, and in business, kindness can be seen as a weakness. But culture is straight-talk, clear direction, honest feedback, and support when needed. When you provide employees with this, you’ve started the process of respect and loyalty. And, really, can kindness ever be a bad thing?
- Praise, recognition and kudos. When I talk about this, I often get the response, “Why should I praise my employee for something that I am paying them for already – that should be thanks enough.” Turn the tables for a moment. When your customers are paying for a product or service, do you not appreciate the compliment? In fact, most companies turn those into customer testimonials. So why shouldn’t this be true for how you provide gratitude for your employees? At the end of the day, it costs you nothing, but earns you considerable points in the positive culture bucket.
- Write it down. Maybe I’m old guard, but there is nothing like a handwritten note that makes one feel valued. No, not an email. An actual, genuine note written and mailed to the employee’s home or left on their desk. Two minutes of your time to share a specific note of appreciation goes a long way in gaining trust and gratitude in both directions.
- Allow employees to be “in the know.” Nothing kills culture faster than secrecy, gossip, and back-channel communication. If you started with trust (see the first bullet) and have cultivated a positive culture, lean into it and invite team members to participate in decisions. No question should be off limits, and nothing should be secret.
- Make hiring a group activity. Want someone new to immediately feel part of the team and welcomed with open arms? Delegate the hiring process to the key team members who will most closely work with the new hire. Then, there are no surprises on either side. By the time the new employee starts, they already feel like part of the team.
- Coordinate team activities. No, you don’t have to do trust falls or participate in a ropes course together. But you should find time to get your employees interacting outside of your four walls. An afternoon excursion, an evening or weekend family activity or a monthly lunch catered into your office or taking your team out – all cultivate espirit de corps. Work will inevitably be discussed, but you’ll also learn more about the people on your team – and they’ll learn about each other, too.
- Get to know your employees as individuals vs. employees. Time is precious and there’s far too little of it. I get it. But an investment in time to get to know your team members beyond their scope of work will do wonders to enhance company loyalty. No-agenda coffee sessions once a month or quarter allow you to connect with team members as individuals, learn about their personal likes and concerns, as well as their professional goals. It offers you the opportunity to open up as well. Trust and loyalty come from opportunities to be vulnerable, and both parties need to participate in that process to make a difference.
Employee loyalty is not something that happens overnight. However, if nurtured, it can make a marked improvement in your organization, productivity and employee satisfaction. And that translates to benefits as measurable as customer loyalty.