Commentary & Analysis
How Happy Employees Are Good for Your Customers
By Cathy Cavanna February 6,
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: February 6, 2006
By Cathy Cavanna February 6, 2006 -- The best companies understand that you build customer loyalty by focusing on employee loyalty first. The more dedicated your employees are, the happier your customers will be. Part of that can be attributed to the attitude employees project, but the other part is tied directly to the fact that happy, dedicated, loyal employees deliver a more consistent and higher quality product, whether that product is a printed piece, a sales call, or a hearty and sincere greeting in the reception lobby. Keep a two-way dialog going to ensure that both employee and employer expectations are realistic. The Top Ten Over nearly three decades in the Human Resources field, I have seen, over and over again, the value delivered by investments in employee satisfaction and employee retention. Here are my top ten tips for building employee loyalty. I hope you can apply some of these to your benefit, and that of your employees, customers and other stakeholders, in your own company. 1. Ensure that employees have exciting work assignments that will challenge them. While it is not realistic to expect that everything in an employee’s job assignment will be exciting and challenging, the skills, capabilities and aptitudes of employees should be assessed on an ongoing basis to make sure that they are challenged on some level each and every day. 2. Career growth , learning and development are an important part of keeping the excitement and challenge in the workplace. Each employee should understand the career path(s) available to them and what it will take to move laterally or upward in the organization over time. Each employee should have a developmental action plan that will help them make progress on their chosen career path, and the company should support that action plan by investing in training that will help the employee develop the skills necessary to get them to the next level. Invest the effort in ensuring that your employees work as a team with a minimum of political jockeying 3. Fair pay and benefits , of course, are critical in employee retention efforts, although, perhaps surprisingly, not always first on the list. Communicate with employees to determine what is of most value to them, and make sure they understand the value of their entire compensation package--health care, vacation and sick time, disability insurance, employer tax contributions, pension or retirement plans and the like. Then develop a compensation strategy that addresses what your employees have indicated are the most important factors. Keep a two-way dialog going to ensure that both employee and employer expectations are realistic. 4. Good relationships and a pleasant work environment : Just like people buy from people, people work with people and relationships with co-workers have an impact on performance. If there is a lot of strife and discord within the organization, it will increase employee stress and reduce employee productivity and satisfaction. Everyone loses. When you are hiring new people, make sure you seek people who are a good fit for your corporate culture. And when you become aware of dissention in the ranks, take quick action to address the problem through employee counseling and education. If you can’t get to the root of the problem, you may need to consider reassignment or even termination. But invest the effort in ensuring that your employees work as a team with a minimum of political jockeying and/or gossip and backbiting. When employees feel good about their work environment, they will be more productive 5. Good management is critical to building a friendly work environment that fosters loyalty. Having “a great boss” generally ranks high on the list of employee satisfiers. Make sure that you have assembled an effective management team, provide them with ongoing training, and make team building an integral part of your company’s culture. 6. Employees need to feel pride in the organization in which they work, in its mission and its products and services. Take the time to make sure that everyone in the organization understands your company’s mission, and the role that they, as individuals, play in achieving that mission. By doing so, you will also help employees better prioritize their activities because they will understand what is most important to the company and its customers. 7. No one wants to come to work in a dark, dirty, dingy building. Do your best to provide a clean, attractive, safe and comfortable work environment for your employees. Provide a physical plant in which your employees can take pride, and encourage them to contribute ideas for making it even better. When employees feel good about their work environment, they will be more productive, and they will work together to maintain aesthetics. Consider implementing some type of philanthropic effort that your employees can contribute to 8. People have a need to feel valued and respected, and to be recognized for the good work they do. Establish a formal employee recognition process. This should include various categories of recognition. For sales, it is relatively easy: who is doing the best job of meeting sales goals. For other parts of the organization, recognition criteria should be clearly defiined. Perhaps managers nominate employees for recognition; or perhaps employees are given the opportunity to nominate each other for recognition. For example, have the sales team recognize the non-sales employee who had the biggest impact on their ability to achieve sales goals in a given month. Recognition should be public and should be tied to some type of reward—a gift certificate, a place on the company’s “Wall of Fame,” a designated parking space for the month. Be creative in the design of recognition and rewards. 9. Almost everyone wants to feel that they are making a difference. The best way to make that happen is to ensure that everyone understands corporate goals and objectives and their individual roles and responsibilities in achieving those. It is also important for employees to understand how your customers use your products and services to meet their goals and objectives. Finally, consider implementing some type of philanthropic effort that your employees can contribute to, whether it is a food drive, adopting a highway, volunteering in the local soup kitchen or raising funds for a local charity. Make sure employees understand their objectives and priorities and can operate as autonomously as possible. 10. Finally, no one likes to feel that Big Brother is alive and well. While management and supervision is important, so is autonomy. Make sure employees understand their objectives and priorities and can operate as autonomously as possible. Empower them to make decisions within their span of control. And reward them for taking the initiative to solve a production problem, proactively address a customer issue, or go above and beyond the call of duty in other ways that will benefit the company. If you make the effort to cover the bases in these ten areas, you are virtually guaranteed to increase employee satisfaction and loyalty. And that leads to higher employee retention rates and greater levels of customer satisfaction. It is a win/win situation that is well worth the investments. I would love to hear from you about the innovative ways you are employing to keep your staff happy and productive. Cathy Cavanna can be contacted via e-mail at CCavanna@Presstek.com.