How to breed loyalty

Did you read my post How to Earn Your Team’s Devotion? I’d like to follow up on that today. It’s simple but not simplistic.

  • Be loyal.
  • Think of others as well as yourself.
  • Show you care about people.
  • Be considerate.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Keep your promises.
  • Be discreet.
  • Build people’s self-esteem, self-worth and dignity.
  • Tell people you appreciate them.

That’s all to do with trustworthiness, really, isn’t it. Trust is an absolute; you either trust someone or you don’t. Trust is fragile; it takes time to develop but seconds to destroy and once lost, it’s difficult to earn back.

I had a boss once who talked about trust like money in the bank. When you keep drawing on it without replenishing it, your account quickly empties. You make deposits with generosity, empathy, integrity and so on. When you don’t deposit enough, you can’t draw on it. (Unfortunately, it was just talk. I soon learned he didn’t keep his word and quickly lost trust in him. But that’s a different story and anyway, it’s a good analogy, that trust is like money in the bank.)

And then there’s competence. Can you deliver? You need be both trustworthy and competent to be an effective leader-manager.

 

The private, public and not-for-profit sectors are having a tough time of it, with layoffs, outsourcing, relentless change — in short, breaking the psychological contract, which looks a lot like not being loyal to employees. Not making enough deposits. Much of that can’t be helped. But the result is a trust account that’s in the red.

Except, that is, when the organisation has enough trustworthy and competent leader-managers. Then its trust account is likely to be in the black.

 

Are you at risk of losing your best team members?

Paul (let’s call him) works in the finance sector. Not so long ago, he was very disillusioned with his job. Not his actual work, which he enjoyed thoroughly, but with his new boss who, to put it bluntly, was a bully. Team morale crashed, cordial working relationships took a dive, job satisfaction plummeted.

We caught up the other day and I asked him how his work was going. ‘Great!’ he said. Seeing my surprise, he explained that he had a new boss. The bullying boss had been moved to another state where, he said, the number of internally advertised vacancies had soared.

‘It’s amazing’, he said, ‘how one person can spoil the enjoyment and job satisfaction for thousands. I could earn lots more money elsewhere. In fact, I nearly took another position when the poisonous boss was around but I held off because I genuinely care about the bank and my customers. Now I wouldn’t even consider moving. I enjoy the people I work with, I respect and like my new manager and I have the opportunity to develop and mentor others, which I find hugely satisfying.’

Over the years, I’ve had many people on training programs who have stated they’ve been offered more money to work for the competition but have turned down the opportunity for similar reasons. They enjoy their work and workmates. They respect their boss. They feel invested in their organisation.

Treating people with respect. Coaching them and providing them with development opportunities. Assigning work they enjoy and feel pride in doing well. Building a strong team people want to be part of and making sure people feel proud of their organisation. These basic people management activities become even more critical when you’re in an industry with high employee turnover and when you depend on the contributions of individuals for the whole team’s success.

Yet, basic as they are, those vital people management activities can all too easily be neglected when you’re under pressure, tangled in continual problems and crises, and have a ‘to do’ list as long as roll of toilet paper.

That’s what reminders on your calendar are for. Diarise the basics. Chat informally with every team member daily. Catch up weekly or fortnightly with everyone to chat about how their jobs are going. Talk about important organisational achievements and events. Share a coffee and share a laugh.

It’s the simple things that count the most. Do you do enough of the ‘simple things’?

Bring on the Boomers!

Nothing stays the same for long, that’s for sure. Of course, had we been living in the beginning of the 20th century rather than the beginning of the 21st century, we’d have faced dramatic change too: the agrarian economy gave way to the industrial economy; electricity transformed peoples’ lives; railways brought the cities and the countryside closer together, and the telephone revolutionised communication.

Yet, the rate of change seems to be faster and deeper today than even, say, 40 years ago. Perhaps the biggest change for older workers, and the most challenging, is in communication and information technology. Many Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964, as you probably know), having entered the workforce before the advent of computers, were aghast at having to learn even the basics and although most coped, some remain ‘technologically challenged’.

But is that a big deal? Why not assign the right duties to the right people, which you should be doing anyway? Younger employees generally thrive on technology while many older employees are more comfortable using other skill sets. No big deal. When you need a mature employee (there, that sounds better than older employee, doesn’t it?!) training and practice will save the day. Everyone can learn when they want to, whatever their age.

As a matter of fact, mature people learn just as quickly as immature people (oh, that sounds bad doesn’t it?!) Strike that. Mature people learn as quickly as younger people and what’s more, there is a lot of research evidence suggesting that once the oldies have acquired a skill, they can apply it more effectively. This is partly due to their experience and partly to their brains: inductive reasoning (moving from the specific to the general) and spatial orientation (awareness of the space around you and where your body is in relation to it) peak at around 50 years of age and verbal abilities and verbal memory peak at around 60 years.

Baby Boomers tend to be easier to manage, too, because they don’t expect as much from their employers and their managers and do many younger workers. They’ve been conditioned into accepting ‘mushroom management’ (let’s just say being treated more like cogs in a wheel than real live people), so many will still put up with a lot more expletive deleted than younger people are willing to. Boomers are also likely to stay in the job longer if for no other reason than they know it’s harder for them to find jobs than the 20- and 30-somethings.

In shying away from mature workers, organisations are missing out on the benefits of their experience, their accumulated common sense and their ability to think problems through and follow up on their solutions to make sure they’re working. They’re also missing out on older workers’ ability to tap into all the networks and relationships they’ve built up over the years, their willingness to not move on to greener pastures and their willingness to put up with–but let’s not go there again.

It doesn’t matter, though, because just around the corner, organisations won’t be able to afford the luxury of ignoring the older talent pool. There simply aren’t enough younger workers entering the workforce to replace the retiring Boomers. Then everyone will just have to learn to work together. Goodness, what a thought!

The real secret to inspiring motivation

I was asked to talk about how to inspire motivation on Annette Marner’s ABC radio show and the usual things sprang to mind:

  • Motivation isn’t about lighting a fire under someone it’s about lighting a fire within someone.
  • Motivation isn’t about fear or money, which are external, it’s about internal things, like pride and satisfaction and contributing something worthwhile.
  • Motivation is about getting two important things right: psychological rewards and job placement.

And so on. It’s all in Chapters 10 and 11, as I certainly hope you know!

As I was writing up a few notes for myself, a sudden thought struck me: motivation is about feelings:

  • feeling valued and respected
  • feeling you’re getting somewhere, achieving something, making progress
  • feeling proud of what you’re doing
  • feeling you’re using your talents and developing your potential.

All right, it isn’t the theory of relativity, but I think it’s a new twist on the way we think about motivation, and sometimes when we see something from a slightly different angle, we see it completely differently.

Feeling something is a lot different, and a lot stronger, than just knowing something. When you feel something, it’s really part of you and therefore drives your performance much more and much further than knowing something.

Discussion questions

What actions can you take, or what can you say, to make your team members feel valued and respected? Feel they’re making progress and achieving something? Feel proud of their work? Feel they’re developing as people and learning valuable skills?

Back to the good old days

Once upon a time, people joined an organisation and remained in it for their entire career. In what was known as the ‘psychological contract’, organisations looked after employees’ training and development and their career progression and in return, they were rewarded with loyal service.

That model pretty much died a long time ago. An exception is US multinational GE Energy, which has offices in Australia and New Zealand. They’re serious about retaining staff, particularly engineers and technicians, and not just in the short term, either. They want their staff to stay with them for their entire careers because, as Sharon Daley, head of human resources (who has been with the company for 30 years herself), says:

‘When someone walks out the door, you’re losing intellectual property and human capital, as well as institutional experience and corporate knowledge. And that’s hard to replace …’

GE Energy is also keen to retain older workers, too, who they believe can be important mentors and teachers.

Part of GE Energy’s retention success lies in the fact that they recognise that people go through different periods in their lives; sometimes they need to work part time, have flexible hours and/or job-share, for instance. Accommodating individual needs, combined with a great employee value proposition and ongoing learning and career development fosters employee loyalty. Employees are so loyal, in fact, that GE Energy’s retention rate is a remarkable 95%.

You can find out more about GE Energy here. Source: ‘People power’ by Sue O’Reilly, the deal, The Australian Newspaper, July 2012.

Discussion questions

How do you foster employee loyalty in your work team? Do you think it’s worth every organisation’s time and energy to try to retain employees? When good employees are hard to find, how important is the psychological contract and long-term employment? What do you do to accommodate employees in different phases of their lives? How easy do you make it for team members to come to you to discuss ways tp make their working lives easier and balance their work and home lives?

Perks for retention, perks for productivity

We’ve all heard about the legendary Google perks – free gourmet food, free Wi-Fi-enabled coaches shuttling workers to the office, engineers spending 20 % of their work time on Google-related projects of their choice (which led to Gmail, among other innovations), not to mention on-site haircuts and dry cleaning and taking your pet to work. That sets the standard, at least for Silicon Valley.

But lest you think these perks are solely for the benefit of employees, think again. The company benefits, too. Keeping good employees gets harder every day because of the shrinking, greying workforce. The best way to keep good employees is to engage them with good jobs and be a company they’re proud to work for, and to chain them with gold handcuffs in the form of great perks and working conditions, and high salaries.

When companies get it right, great perks can increase productivity, too. The free meals at Google, for instance, don’t just provide food for connoisseurs. They also provide carefully contrived opportunities, or ‘manufactured moments of serendipity’, as Google calls them, where a chance conversation in the food queue might spark a great idea. Laszlo Bock, Google’s head of people operations, says that less than three minutes queuing provides too few serendipitous moments and more than 10 minutes provides too many. That’s the real reason Google measures its lunch queues.

Source: ‘Business Practices: The Perks of the Trade’, Bethany McLean, Vanity Fair, October 2012.

What does your organisation do to keep good employees? What do you personally do to keep your best team members? How do you provide ‘serendipitous moments’ to help your team members bond and spark good ideas?