Productivity slows to a crawl, people leave in droves and the company bleeds profits when it operates with employees who don’t care about the company, the quality of their work or their co-workers. Fully engaged employees who are emotionally committed to their work can boost the bottom line and make the workplace a much more enjoyable place to come each day. It takes commitment from management, mutual respect among co-workers and challenging, creative work to get that kind of loyalty from your staff.
People want to do work they care about -- period. Many people choose jobs they love over well-paying jobs they hate, even if they can barely survive on the pay. But that doesn’t mean you have to fulfill the lifetime dreams and goals of your staff, although you might in some circumstances. When you don’t have the kinds of jobs kids dream about, there are ways you can create an atmosphere where employees can be themselves and cultivate the sense that their work fits in with the type of people they see themselves as. Methods vary from job to job, but can include finding out what makes individual employees tick and giving them those kinds of challenges, complimenting staffers when they take initiative (even if it's off-base) and giving employees tasks that complement their personalities.
People want a little security and to know that, barring any major catastrophe, they’ll have a job tomorrow. Employees don’t want to feel expendable or replaceable. If you want loyalty from your employees, you have to be loyal to them. This doesn't mean that you have to be dishonest or give the impression that you don't care about results and will tolerate any sort of behavior. What it does mean, however, is that you find a way to recognize and acknowledge each employee's individuality and value to the team. Noticing improvements, giving regular encouragement, being on a first-name basis and regularly thanking your employees makes them feel safe when they leave at the end of the day.
The sense of connection with co-workers and managers and the feeling of being a part of a greater good are powerful motivators for employees to want to stick and stay. Employees feel committed to a job when they enjoy the company of those they work around and feel as if they are part of a valuable network. Many people would rather leave a job than stick around only to endure a hostile or unpleasant relationship with a fellow worker or immediate supervisor. You may be the boss, but it's good to remember that you are also a person, and that meaningful human interactions are healthy and necessary for everyone.
As much as we might like to think that community and emotional health are the only things that have any effect on employee loyalty, it just isn't so. You are in business to make money, and so is your staff. This doesn't mean you can just buy off unhappy employees or that you can expect to get away with abusive behavior and poor management skills because you pay so well. But, at the end of the day, employees are motivated by money, just as you are. One of the best ways to inspire loyalty is to give the type of compensation, including pay and benefits, they can't easily find anywhere else.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."