Apr 30 2010
With national Loyalty Day arriving tomorrow in the U.S., I’m going to fly my flag and reaffirm my loyalty to my country. Reuters got the timing right yesterday as they released the results of a national survey showing just where Americans place their loyalty.
Not surprising to most of us in public relations who labor daily to help brands achieve loyalty, the favorite car, TV show and soft drink brands of respondents faired better than their employers. Lessons learned from this and other recent polls? Employers should be spending more time deserving employee loyalty. It’s become unfashionable to talk about loyalty to company lately, I suppose, but isn’t it just a tad sad that employers don’t come across better than the survey indicates?
Brand loyalty is an inside-out proposition and employees are critical to creating excitement and enthusiasm in customers, shareholders and other external audiences. Business Pundit’s interview with Dianne Durkin is a recent statement of this point of view about customer loyalty (which she distinguishes from brand loyalty). And while others may discount employee loyalty, arguing that there is plenty of supply and fairly low demand for employees lately — a buyer’s market – I’m not in their camp.
My intuition won’t let me come down on the side of the supply-siders’ point of view because people are particularly important to businesses like ours that derive their value from fielding good, smart, engaged, competent, confident and caring teams for their clients. The closer-to-right point of view about employee loyalty probably was delivered by Jack and Suzy Welch in a post last year for Business Week The Loyalty Fallacy. They pointed out that the only way to play fair with employees is to focus on results.
To acknowledge the obvious, Mr. Welch as the former head of GE has his detractors. In fact, the GE organizational development scheme of firing the bottom 10% is downright repulsive to those of us who are just so happy that our freshman year universities didn’t take the same approach. People are redeemable, and it sometimes looked as though GE was operating on that “there’s plenty more where they came from” thesis. (Kris Dunn, the HR Capitalist, put up a great post earlier this month 10 Bitchin’ Facts About Jack Welch…in which he lists as #4 fact: “Chuck Norris can drink an entire gallon of milk in thirty-seven seconds. Jack Welch doesn’t drink milk. Milk is for sissies.”) Lately, though, even Mr. Welch seems a more benign presence in the business landscape, and his take on the importance of companies clarifying which values and behaviors matter has always been right on.
The importance of loyalty is evident in business in so many ways that it’s important to nurture and encourage it. From small main street banks to large fast food chains, companies are at least professing their interest in building loyalty within and outside their walls. But, there’s a big difference between deciding and doing. Here are some steps to move the loyalty ball forward with employees:
Let’s hope part of the new reality that is being discussed with regard to our economy includes a healthy dose of loyalty. Some of the foundations seem to soften when we hit good times and lose track of the fundamentals. Loyalty is one of those foundations for good business, and the best foundation builders surround us every day at work.