Businesses often invest a significant amount of time and resources into keeping the customers happy, but what about employees? Happy, engaged employees are a critical part of a thriving business, and it’s important not to forget about their satisfaction.
For Zoe Share, CEO of Schmooz Media, a social marketing consulting firm, spending quality time with her employees is a critical piece of employee loyalty.
“I spend 15 to 20 minutes per week with each employee asking them about their challenges and victories,” Share says. These meetings allow her employees opportunities to get things off their minds and to feel connected to her. She says they often discuss personal feelings with her. “As a CEO, I’m not their therapist, but I am there to keep a pulse on the company and to help each member of my team be successful.”
With an incredibly low turnover rate, Share feels this approach is working.
Share also tries to infuse company values with a “Pay It Forward” program. Every month, the company celebrates one team member for inhabiting the company values. The recipient of the award then has to give out the next one, until everyone is eventually recognized, fostering a cooperative and encouraging environment.
Lastly, she places importance on collecting feedback from her employees, so that they know their voices can be heard. They have created an anonymous feedback/ideas box at the agency to keep track of important issues, which are discussed in monthly meetings. “What I have found is that through this practice, people have brought up their problems more openly because they know they have a time and space to say their challenges and then get to vote on what gets dealt with democratically.”
Nathalie Noisette, CFO of Comice Care, a home health agency in Avon, Massachusetts, also prioritizes employees’ voices. Noisette believes in involving employees in key decision-making processes, a strategy she borrowed from the book Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant, by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, which recommends fostering employee loyalty through collaboration. She quotes from the book, “Involving employees in the developmental process can promote a sense of ownership and loyalty regardless of hierarchy.”
As an example, when they recently changed their procedures and policies for employees, instead of simply laying down the new rules, they asked for employees’ feedback. “Even if you can’t implement it all, make sure employee feedback is heard.”
However, Noisette also takes the practical approach that many employees are motivated by financial compensation as a priority. “For those employees who are heavily influenced by money, we’ve found that when we pay our employees competitively, not only are they likely to stay longer, as long as we incentivize them, they remain loyal.”
Noisette’s industry is prone to high turnover, and most caregivers, she says, don’t make more than $14 dollars an hour. So her company pays above the industry standard and creates opportunities for employees to gain cash bonuses through referrals. “If we can give them a cut of the client acquisition cost, and incentivize them to acquire them, it works out for everyone,” she explains.
So far, her employees have stayed longer than the industry standard of three months—with one employee already at a year.
For those who are not so motivated by money, Noisette says it’s important to find out what does motivate them and then carve out niches where people can thrive. “One employee wanted to dabble in the clinical and the administrative side, so even though we didn’t have that position for her, we created it for her. She had another job but decided to leave it to work with us full time.”
Nicki Friis, founder of Patentrenewal.com, urges leaders to figure out what motivates employees. She cites a survey conducted by The Network and Boston Consulting Group that found recognition was the top motivator among the 200,000 participants interviewed.
“The key to successful motivation is recognition of the employee’s competencies. Employees need to feel competent, experience self-determination, and be able to relate to others so that they experience belonging,” Friis says.
When a company can help to fulfill or stimulate those needs, she says, the employees are more likely to stay.
Additionally, Friis says, employees need to have clear goals and direction to know what is expected of them.
When it comes to creating employee loyalty, Noisette says, “Remember that they are resources and the front line for your businesses, so treat them with the utmost respect and they will keep your customers happy, too."