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September 2016

The Loyalty Equation

Loyalty is a product of actions by both employers and employees.

Written by Paul Thallner | 0 comment

Why is it so hard to find loyal people these days? Well, the problem is actually the question.

First, loyalty is not an intrinsic quality. It’s the byproduct of the relationships an employee has with his or her manager, colleagues, and the company. The same way a person with low morale wasn’t necessarily born that way, loyalty isn’t something you can predict or determine in the interview process. You can make assumptions and judgments from someone’s history, but we have all hired a person who looks good on paper and interviews well, only to watch that person crumple in his new role.

Fact is, employees (and managers and supervisors and executives) choose to be loyal. They use a number of variables to decide how much loyalty to bring to your company, and you control many of those variables. In fact, you are those variables.

So, when you wonder what was going on inside the heads of your employees who have quit, for example, ask yourself, what did they experience to get to the point where they would leave?

The Research Has Been Done

A recent article in Forbes magazine highlighted the top six reasons good employees quit companies: 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 feedback.

The research makes it sound like employees are passive in the process and leaders must do all the work to keep employees happy. But in reality, the leader and the employee each have a role to play. Great workplaces are built through the day-to-day relationships that develop between employees and their bosses—not a checklist of programs and benefits. The key factor in these relationships is trust. Trust builds loyalty.

The Five Variables

So how does this work? From the employees’ perspective, the relationship with their managers grows stronger when employees view their bosses as credible, respectful, and fair. This is the heart of a high-trust workplace. These characteristics help build pride and foster camaraderie. Let’s break it down by variable.

Credibility. Employees want to know that their leader is good at his or her job. Technical expertise is a basic expectation for leaders, though, so credibility must extend beyond that. Credible leaders are approachable and give straight answers. They articulate the strategy clearly and are forthcoming with information. Their actions match their words. They make good hiring and resourcing decisions. And most importantly, they are honest and ethical.

Respect. Respect is all about leaders listening to and responding to employees’ feedback. The work environment should allow employees to feel comfortable giving feedback to their bosses. Respected leaders involve their employees in decisions and show appreciation for good work and extra effort. And these leaders show a sincere interest in their employees as people first, rather than as workers first.

Fairness. That said, employees want to know that what propels people or holds them back is the quality of their work, not other factors like sex, race, age, sexual orientation, etc. Employees in a fair workplace don’t stab each other in the back, badmouth others, or play politics. Similarly, leaders in fair cultures don’t play favorites, and promote those who deserve it. And finally, employees feel that leaders are objective in evaluating conflicts between them and their managers.

Pride. While credibility, fairness, and respect are indicators of the employees’ relationship with their managers, pride springs from the relationship an employee has with the company. Employees feel pride when they sense they make a real difference and that their work has special meaning. They recognize the success of the organization and see themselves as contributing to it. They go the extra mile, look forward to coming to work, and want to stay there for a long time.

Camaraderie. Camaraderie reflects the relationship an employee has with fellow employees. It’s a strong force that keeps employees feeling engaged and happy. Employees with strong connections to one another can be their true selves at work. They can also see their workplace as fun and friendly, and see their colleagues as a family or true team. They feel as though people genuinely care about them, and they are made to feel welcome on day one.

It’s A Two Way Street

Leaders are responsible for these five dimensions, but employees have an obligation to the relationship as well. They must perform their jobs well and meet their goals. They must demonstrate effort not just in their specific function, but make extra an effort to learn, share ideas, or add value in other ways. Finally, they must be able to collaborate with others in a way that contributes to the business and the workplace culture. These efforts strengthen the relationship between leaders and employees.

So, how do leaders create the proper environment of trust? There are nine aspects to this.

Great workplaces achieve organizational goals when leaders are inspiring, communicate freely (speak), and listen. Employees give their personal best when leaders focus on thanking, developing and caring for their people. And leaders cultivate a positive work atmosphere through effective hiring, authentic celebrating, and transparent sharing.

The Loyalty Equation

When you put all this together, it 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, then trust diminishes. Employees tend to leave when trust shrinks to the point where they feel it can’t be restored.

The Meaning For The Ski Industry

While our industry is unique in many ways, it is not so unique that the rules don’t apply. Many industries, for instance, have seasonal workers (e.g., agriculture, construction, shipping, etc.) and many companies in those industries are on the Fortune 100 Best Places to Work list.

Take REI (#26), for example. It employs seasonal workers not just during the holidays, but also during the summer—not unlike winter resorts.

As a co-op, REI believes that a high-trust culture is critical to its success. One big step: Its recent #OptOutside campaign, which closed every REI store on Black Friday to encourage its employees (and customers) to go outdoors instead of to a mall. Every employee was paid a full day’s wages. This was way more than just a gesture—it hit all the trust indicators, pride and fairness especially. But encouraging employees to take a day off also built credibility and respect by putting REI’s corporate values ahead of sales.

Additionally, REI offers “Yay Days.” Every REI employee receives a paid day off every six months to go outside, play, and get inspired by exploring the outdoors. No strings attached. This not only builds camaraderie, but shows leaders walk the talk and care about their employees.

As a ski industry leader, you can create a high-trust culture for all of your staff. The benefits are clear: happier, more engaged employees who want to give 100 percent at work. And that leads to happier guests, who visit an environment filled with people who genuinely care about the company, each other, and the guests. It’s a win for all. The choice is yours.