Do these today to ensure a faithful staff tomorrow
By John Heckers
Now may seem to be a ridiculous time to talk about generating employee loyalty. After all, there is a bloodbath going on at America’s corporations, large, medium and small. But now is the exact time to work on creating loyal employees who will not be lost when the recession is finally over – whether that is six months, or, as I believe more likely, two years from now. Here are five things you can do today to insure a faithful staff tomorrow.
- Look for creative ways to avoid laying people off. A lay-off is nothing short of a massive failure on the part of management to think creatively. In fact, it is a sign of bad management in most cases.Think creatively about things you can do to reduce personnel costs. Ask employees to volunteer for a couple of days a month off each without pay. Ask management to reduce their salaries and forego their bonuses, which they shouldn’t be getting paid anyway if people need to be laid off. Re-negotiate contracts with whomever you are able. Ask employees for suggestions. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at your staff. Rather than see people they care about get laid off, they may well be willing to make great sacrifices. And remember…none of us is as smart as all of us. Don’t be afraid to be honest with your employees and ask them for help.
- Institute a company policy that everyone receives the exact same company benefits. It generates resentment when the bosses have a Cadillac health plan and the employees have a beat up Chevy health plan. While there are obvious pay disparities, an employee is an employee whether a VP or a custodian. All should get the same benefits.Executives operate in “executive think.” They tend to think that they are more important than others in the company. This is the kind of thinking that has employees leaving in droves to a more enlightened company as soon as they are able. Share the pain. Share the success. Let everyone fare the same under the company benefits plan.
- Mingle with the employees. Whether you are a small business owner or a Fortune 500 executive, one of the very best ways to insure employee loyalty is to listen to them. If you have a factory, go down and work beside them for a couple of days a month. Eat in a common lunch area, and be open to others joining you. Don’t always be aloof, though keep your command presence even if you are alongside an employee scrubbing toilets. Employees respect a leader who joyfully gets his or her hands dirty along with them.
- Truly listen without defensiveness. Listen fully to what your employees have to say, even if it is painful to hear. If you’ve been insensitive or wrong, immediately admit it and apologize for your lapse — after fully letting the employee vent. No one is always right. Apologizing if you’ve been wrong does not lose employee respect – it gains it. And you’re being an important role model. On the other hand, most venting is going to be about things outside of your control or intelligent company policies. You employees should know this. If an employee vents to you about something beyond your control, simply say, “That frustrates me, too. I wish I could change that, but it is, as I’m sure you know, not in my control.” You’ll, again, usually be pleasantly surprised as the employee will usually try to make you feel better and absolve you of responsibility.
- Be transparent. Let your employees know as much as you are legally and ethically able about the state of the company. The more your staff knows about the actual state of the company, the more helpful they’ll be. Of course, if you’re “poor mouthing” about not having money to pay them well or give them benefits, but are taking a huge salary for yourself, you’re in deep trouble…and should be. Your employees are the ones who help you obtain your wealth. You should be generously sharing it with them to the greatest degree possible.Some of these tips, not basketball hoops in the cafeteria or video games on the computers, are what generate employee loyalty. Implement these things in your company, and it will probably take a nuclear explosion to blast them out of your firm to another where they are not treated with as much respect. Don’t respect them, and, as soon as they are able, they’ll leave.
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