We’ve weathered the storm, with all of the intangible uncertainty and very real pay sacrifices that came with it. With the downturn all but over, any decent staff who were too scared to look around for another job will be dusting off their resumes. The time is right for company heads to think about ways to encourage loyalty among the staff they can’t afford to lose. Here’s how.
1. Lead by example: Loyalty can’t be installed into humans like software in a computer. It is behaviour that is learned, which means you have to take the lead and display it; show that you understand what it means. If you believe in your team, express that belief.
2. Tell them the truth: Share everything you think you can with them: customer feedback, results, targets. Anyone who feels they’re working blind will become very frustrated. We’ve come out of a bad patch, with rumours and paranoia pulling everyone down. Some of these may linger, so clear the air with some straight communication about goals and objectives.
3. Step back: Allow your crew plenty of oxygen; don’t be seen as the guy who’s always looking over their shoulders. Clear roadblocks, stand back and let them work.
4. Give credit where it’s due: If someone’s done a good job, make sure they know you’ve noticed.
5. Be inclusive: It could also be worth including employees in focus groups or consulting them about product development. Give it a try.
6. Check your profile: How is your own behaviour? Hypocrisy and unethical behaviour are amplified in the eyes of staff. Such a perception, real or not, could encourage someone to jump ship. Remember: loyalty breeds loyalty.
7. Inspect your company from the employees’ perspective: Are the opportunities for personal advancement easy to see, or is there a sense of being fenced in? (Training programs are often a good incentive. Put some in place or improve the ones you have.) Is information free-flowing, or do the people in those cubicles feel remote and cut off? Does everyone have a good overview of operations, or does it feel like a mysterious production line? Are opinions valued? Is there an outlet for opinions?
8. Ask the experts: Employees need to feel they have access to their employer’s expertise and also to feel they are valued for their own expertise. It is vital that staff see a clear link between their own efforts and the objectives of the company, and that they are supported in their efforts.
Employees are looking to management and judging them using a checklist that includes: ethics, expertise, trust and a sense of inclusion. If these things are immediately apparent in the workplace, then why work anywhere else?
In the end, however, you might just have to pull a pay rise out of the hat. That usually works.