The Loyalty Equation

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Why is it so hard to find loyal people these days? Well, the problem is actually the question. Loyalty is not an intrinsic quality; it’s one possible by-product of a relationship. So when you wonder why an employee has decided not to return this season or why an employee leaves before the season ends, think about what they must have experienced to get to the point where they would make that choice.

Forbes magazine recently wrote an article highlighting the top six reasons good employees quit companies. They said the employees leave because: 1) leaders provide no clear vision; 2) their work is not connected to a larger purpose; 3) leaders express no empathy; 4) leaders fail to motivate properly; 5) there are no career paths; and 6) it’s just not fun to work there.

This list echoes decades of research that show that people tend to leave their jobs because of the failures of leaders (most often their direct supervisor) to really listen to, and act on, employees’ feedback.

So, are employees just inherently disloyal? The research makes it sound like employees are passive in the process and leaders must do all the work to keep employees happy!

In reality, the leader and the employee each have a role to play in creating a workplace that makes it easy for employees to fulfill their season-long commitment, and then return the following year. Great workplaces are built through the day-to-day relationships between employees and their bosses—not a checklist of programs and benefits. The key factor in these relationships is TRUST. Trust builds loyalty.

From the employee’s perspective, the relationship with a leader grows stronger when he or she views the leader as competent and credible, as well as fair and respectful. From the leader/supervisor’s perspective, the relationship with employees grows stronger when employees achieve their objectives by giving their personal best and work together as a team/family.

This ends up looking like an equation:

(Leader Competence + Leader Fairness + Leader Respectfulness) + (Employee Performance + Employee Effort + Employee Collaboration) = TRUST

If any one of the variables diminishes, trust diminishes. And employees leave when trust shrinks to the point where they feel trust can’t be restored. As an operator, you can build trust by holding employees to a clear standard of performance, recognizing the efforts that contribute to the success of the business, and giving your team space to solve problems with an appropriate level of autonomy. That is, when you acknowledge someone for doing something right (say, taking an extra 30 seconds to calm a nervous guest), be very specific about why it was a good thing.

“Hey, Martha. I noticed you took the time to reassure that guest. Not only was that really nice, it also created a much safer environment for all of us and it provided the guest with an exceptional level of service. I love seeing that. Thank you. Keep up the great work.”

Every moment you are leading, you have a choice. You can choose to build trust, or you can choose to erode it. The benefits of building trust at every opportunity are immense. The World Economic Forum reports that: 1) top trusted companies experience 50 percent less turnover than their competitors; 2) High-trust workplaces produce three times the cumulative market return when benchmarked against the Russell 3000 or SAP 500; and 3) Working where trust in management is high boosts a person’s satisfaction with their life as much as a pay increase would.

It all adds up.

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About Author

Paul Thallner is an executive culture consultant at Great Place to Work, a global research and consulting firm that works with organizations to build high-trust workplace cultures and produces the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list.

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