Loyal staff, loyal customers? Is there really a link?

The holy grail for organisations is customer loyalty. Less talked about but more important to building a brand is employee loyalty. Simply put, you can’t build a great (or even good) brand if you are constantly replacing people.

A recent article in Inc. outlines the four things that help earn employee loyalty (and, no, the size of their pay packet isn’t one of them) – from the common sense of good communications and being consistent, to the often touted opportunity to do great work, and less talked about but equally important, being a bad management free zone – all of these things add up to a place where people want to work and keep working at.

Taking each one in turn, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the things that earn loyalty from employees look pretty similar to those that earn loyalty from customers. Communicate. Be consistent. Do great work. Don’t be mean.

Let’s start with communications. Why should I care about you? What will you and won’t you do? Don’t keep it to yourself. Tell the people who work for you what’s going on. Tell them often. Use human language not jargon and HR speak. Don’t leave a vacuum for them to fill with their own wonderings. And if that sounds a lot like the advice you would get about communicating with customers you would be right.

Being consistent is a mainstay of successful organisations and their brands. If people don’t know what is coming next. If things run hot and cold, supportive one minute and every man for himself the next. If the culture is a bit too much like a Robert Louis Stevenson novel, then chances are employees will be taking orders with one hand and searching the positions available with the other.

Consistency is king but it is harder than it sounds (or more people would do it) and requires discipline and awareness to achieve. More on this coming in this blog in a few weeks.

I know the potential to make a contribution is a big driver for me in deciding what work I take on, and I doubt I’m alone, so it should be no surprise to anyone that employees are motivated by the opportunity to do great work.

And really, we’re not talking about everyone needing to work for world peace. The simple opportunity to be part of a striving to make a difference, whatever the area can be enough. But you still need to communicate what that is and be consistent in doing it.

And lastly, mean, bullying, bad managers need not apply. I saw a delightfully titled management book called The Fish Rots from the Head, and that about sums it up. Management is a complex topic, but one of the key ingredients of all good managers is they walk their talk. People know what they stand for and what they won’t stand for.

Unfortunately, the same is true of bad managers – what they do sets the tone and can send employees running for the exits to get away from the smell!

For reasons that I can never quite figure out, the connection between a revolving door at the employee entrance and lack of repeat business on the customer side gets overlooked.

Back to my original statement – you can’t build a good (let alone great) brand with loyal customers if the organisation doesn’t have loyal employees. You can’t build culture, deliver consistent service, develop great products and services that people want to buy, solve problems in new ways, make great big leaps in thinking or keep any promises.

When the so-called most valuable asset of any organisation is voting with their feet and going to the competition, why on earth wouldn’t customers follow suit (and they do).

That’s why loyalty has to start from within.

See you next week with the next instalment of SME Brands that I Like.


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