Loyalty Is an Inside Job, TooArticle by Colleen Francis, October 19, 2021
Recently, I talked about customer loyalty and how it’s your job—not theirs—to create ideal conditions for them to stick with you. But what about within your organization? It matters here, too.
Especially now: everyone’s scrambling to keep their best people and find new talent. And, as part of this process, I’m in many conversations with leaders on the important reasons behind that uptick in headhunting companies reaching out and poaching their best talent (you’ve seen it too, right?).
Then I have to deliver the really bad news: “Until you wise up about this, it’s going to get worse.” Just as customer loyalty isn’t fixed with free baseball caps and donuts anymore, employee loyalty is also driven by a whole new set of factors.
Look around you. We’re all neck-deep in a period of massive worldwide change and uncertainty. People are working harder and in ways radically different than just a few years ago. Far more than ever now, we’re multi-tasking, using multiple platforms, and juggling work and personal time…and that’s not even mentioning those who are doing multiple jobs while their company is short-staffed. It’s all happening against a backdrop of chronic supply and distribution issues. Add to that a handful of natural disasters in many parts of the world and we have a fully-formed perfect storm swirling overhead—one that’s turning employee loyalty into one heck of a scarce commodity!
You must respond—and respond wisely—to this. Now. Here’s how you get serious about making employee loyalty an inside job in your business.
LOOK FOR SIGNS OF TROUBLE
Just like Bob Dylan once said: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” You must make it your job to look for signs of engagement—and disengagement—from your employees. Don’t wait for them to tell you this. Words come too late. But actions don’t. Look at sellers who’re in a sales slump. Look at those who are cancelling calls and not engaging in team meetings as much as they used to. Take careful note of those who complain about things, but who also don’t offer solutions. Each of these telltale behaviours gives you reason to ask yourself: “What can we do as an organization to help deal with this kind of trouble?”
ACKNOWLEDGE AND COMMIT
Employees—and especially your top talent that’s ripe for poaching—need to feel that you are personally invested in making (at least some) changes they request. Be willing to ask people (and do this only as a group): “What changes must we make as an organization to help you remain a successful performer here?” It’s not enough to just make people feel heard when you listen carefully to how they answer that question. Be ready and willing to implement changes, or quickly offer alternatives. Think of yourself as a value-based seller, with your employees as the prospective customer. To win them over, you must identify what they value, and align a solution that solves their issue.
EXECUTION IS EVERYTHING
Promises mean nothing. Loyalty is earned only by what you can deliver convincingly. Be strategic about execution. Look first for simple, achievable changes that you can act on quickly. Let’s say your employees tell you that a move from daily to weekly meetings (or vice versa) would help them greatly in their work. Make it so. The sooner you do this, the sooner you give them the incentives they need to believe you mean what you say.
FOLLOW UP REGULARLY
Even after you’ve listened to employees, acted on their feedback, and made meaningful changes…you still have an important job to do. You must follow-up on what you execute. Never assume the changes you make in your business are guaranteed to fix your loyalty issues. Rather, make following-up an integral part of your plan. Check-in with staff regularly. Ask: “How are these changes working out?” And: “What more can we do?”
Loyalty is a trust-building and trust-maintaining enterprise. You must cultivate it steadily—both among your customers and your employees—and base it on what’s currently going on in the marketplace. No one else will do this work for you. Ignore it at your peril. Or do it right—starting today—and begin reaping the benefits of steady growth from people who want to stick with you.