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Best Businesses Know How to Create Employee Loyalty

Monday, January 1, 2007

"There are virtually no businesses that have unhappy employees and happy customers," says Alan Weiss, Ph.D. and CEO of the Society for the Advancement of Consulting (SAC). "The best businesses we see are those which generate loyalty among employees, making everyone feel as though they are owners of the place."

SAC surveyed its international membership to determine if loyalty is still an issue, and found out that it is, though more difficult now to enhance than ever before. "You want employees," continues Weiss, "who pick up the phone personally, respond to requests from customers rapidly, go out of their way to avoid waste, and so on, just as any owner would do."

These are the keys to developing employee loyalty in terms of best practices:

  1. Listen. Regularly ask employees what they think and how the job can be done better.
  2. Invest. Educate and develop people in the skills and behaviors required to perform the job well.
  3. Focus on output not input. Don't measure sales calls, measure sales. Don't focus on hours spent in training, focus on the use of what was taught.
  4. Be accessible. Don't isolate yourself from your employees. Make sure it is not intimidating, complex, or time-consuming to reach you and provide information.
  5. Shop the business. Find out who your best and worst responders are and determine why there is a discrepancy. Then fix it.
  6. Provide incentive. Make sure the incentive is based on actual performance and that everyone can "win" by improving on their current performance. (Incentive plans that are zero-sum and create limited "winners" are horrible for morale in general.)
  7. Recognize behavior, not just "victory." Provide acknowledgment for good ideas and good attempts, even if they don't always achieve the goal. The best way to create good ideas is to have a lot of ideas.

"In general," concludes Weiss, "employee loyalty is neither habit nor routine, but is a genuine desire to help the organization meet its goals through the exercise of one's talents. The best organizations put that in motion and then get out of the way. That's why service on a low-frills carrier such as Southwest Airlines can be superior to first class service on a major competitor, and why people are willing to pay higher prices in Nordstrom's, where there is great service, than the less expensive prices in stores where the clerks are apathetic or rude."

 
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