Monday, December 15, 2008

Employee Loyalty

Finding and retaining the best employees is every company's challenge. Add to that historically low unemployment rates and a changing workforce with a wide range of attitudes and expectations, and employers find themselves faced with unusually high turnover rates and few explanations as to why they can't seem to keep good people, much less keep them happy.

A good way to look at it is like a hockey team. Companies are now composed of "free agents" rather than lifelong employees who stick with one company for their entire career.

Consider also the influx of employees representing Generation X and the fact that these well educated workers are in demand. They are well aware of their value, have unique requirements and are not afraid to make bold and frequent career moves to meet them. They have had so much pressure put on them to get an education and then the expectation is put on them that when they do and finish school they will make tons of money. So if they get into a career out of school that will take time and hard work to get to the top, they will move onto the next job where they think they can hit it big right way without hesitation.

The sooner companies can face the fact that they've got to do more to earn employee loyalty, the better they will be at recruiting and retaining the best and the brightest.

But how do the most successful companies build employee loyalty? It's not as much of a mystery as you might think. Here are a couple of issues that have a direct effect on how happy your employees can be. And remember that even small changes in workplace culture and employee programs can have a large and positive impact on employee loyalty.

Employee training. One of the most important factors in employee loyalty is a company's commitment to training its staff. The best and the brightest want to stay that way, and they expect their employer to support their desire to learn and grow professionally. In many jobs the learning curves are so steep and product and technology development cycles so short, that proper training is an ongoing requirement.

Add to that the desire for management training, cross-skill training, and training in areas such as stress and time and budget management, and companies are looking at diverse (and, it may seem, costly) needs to meet. But as the best companies have learned over the years, employee training is critical to corporate success. And in the long run, training programs save companies money because they motivate employees and keep them engaged and happy in their jobs.

Afraid all that training will equip your employees with tools to move on to a brighter future elsewhere? The truth is, most won't. Remember that your investment and commitment count, and that most employees will stay where they feel supported and appreciated. Sure, employees may seek new jobs for a variety of reasons. If you have treated them well and helped build their professional skills through training, employees (whether they stay with your company or not) will speak highly of their experience to others. Yes, employees can still be loyal long after they've left your company. In fact, many times these employees return after obtaining experience elsewhere.

Team loyalty. In today's business environment, the team is the thing. It used to be that employees were loyal to a company, but today the loyalty is geared towards the smaller unit within which an individual operates on a daily basis. They feel committed to team members and are more focused on achieving attainable team-based goals. This scenario is empowering for employees and should be fostered.

Some ways to build team loyalty include: mentoring programs at all levels, creating team incentive programs, and encouraging teams to develop their own set of goals, rules and work styles.

To be successful (and stay successful) in business, companies need to develop this employee loyalty.

No comments: