"The way people treat each other in companies and other organizations is affected by the common vision shared by employees," says Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline. "One of the deepest desires underlying shared vision is the desire to be connected to a larger purpose and one another."
A study by the American Management Association shows that when employees' personal values are congruent with their company's values, their personal lives are better, and they feel better about their jobs. According to Gregory Smith, author of Here Today, Here Tomorrow, "An organization that can create an energized, higher-calling environment will have higher retention and greater productivity."
A larger purpose is the key to building loyalty, and companies with loyal employees reap the rewards. Many service organizations have long-tenured employees, because they were able to easily link into their higher calling. How can your company build loyalty?
What If Your Company Builds Bombs?
Some company's products do not lend themselves to altruistic values. I worked for Honeywell's Solid State Electronic Center in Colorado Springs, which built the computer chips in their regulators, mainframe computers, thermostats and bombs. It wasn't comforting to know my work produced weapons of mass destruction. However, our division's mission was to improve individuals' quality of life through the products we built. This was an easier mission to internalize. And yet I eventually resigned, because the company's values conflicted with my own.
Determine your company's higher purpose. Don't think of building cars; instead think of providing safety, reliability and peace of mind to consumers. Once you understand your company's higher purpose, share it with employees and applicants. Post company values in your employee manual, vacancy notices, brochures, and on intranet and Web sites.
What Else Can You Do?
A company can also increase loyalty and decrease turnover through:
- Clear and frequent communication. When an organization lets employees know what's happening, employees feel more included and trusted.
- Continuous training and tuition reimbursement. Providing training is important, because:
-- It is an investment in employees, which they see as money in the bank.
-- When you invest in workers, they are more apt to invest in your company.
- Expect greatness. When you raise the bar, employees will meet your expectations and feel important.
- Provide career counseling. When you help employees grow in their careers, they are more apt to stay with you.
- Invest in employees' financial futures with a matching 401k. When you have a stake in their financial future, they will want to have a stake in yours.
- Reward and recognize employees often. Employees crave positive feedback and will be more productive when they receive it.
- Ask employees for input on important decisions. Employees will feel important and more committed to the mission.
- Institute exit interviews when employees terminate to determine why they are leaving.
- Establish a family-friendly work environment. Child-care benefits and flexible schedules allow employees to spend more time with family.
- Allow employees to work on visible projects, or add additional duties that interest them.
Loyalty to your company mission doesn't come easily. You must build it one employee at a time. And building loyalty is much like building trust: It's easy to tear down; the challenge is to build it up and maintain it.
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