By Bridget McCrea
What can electrical distributors do to keep their best employees onboard, engaged, and loyal for the long haul?
Employee loyalty is at a pretty low point right now. More than half of all managers (52%) consider their employees less loyal than five years ago, according to a recent American Management Association (AMA) survey. Thirty-seven percent perceive employees to be about the same as five years ago, and just 11% view employees as more loyal.
“It seems employee loyalty has declined sharply in recent years among large North American organizations,” says Sam Davis, vice president of AMA’s customized consulting solutions, in a press release. “Yet understandably, given the stakes, many organizations still seek to make employee loyalty a core part of their culture. When presented in terms of whether or not loyalty is a ‘major focus’ even more companies indicate they value loyalty.”
The Negative Impacts of Disloyalty
Even just a handful of disengaged, uninterested employees can negatively impact an entire organization. According to the AMA, declining employee loyalty harms organizations by causing low morale (84%), high turnover (80%), disengagement (80%), growing distrust (76%), and lack of team spirit (73%). And, 33% of senior leaders believe employee loyalty has a direct relationship to profits.
With two-thirds of millennial employees planning to leave their current organizations by 2020—and 25% planning an exit within the next 12 months—the need for a solid employee engagement, development, and training approach becomes even more critical. According to AMA, coaching, job skills training, and learning opportunities show that the company is serious enough about employees to invest in their future.
“Managers should engage employees in decisions about their work and give input into the how, why, and what they do,” says Davis. “This will go a long way to help employees become more personally invested, interested in the outcome, and intrinsically rewarded by their work.”
The question is, how can an electrical distribution firm invest in training when its employees aren’t investing in it? And, how can a company improve employee loyalty during a time when so many factors are working against it? The answer lies in solid training, good communication, and an employee development program that goes beyond just monetary rewards.
It’s the Culture
Developing a strong corporate culture is an ongoing effort at K/E Electric Supply Co., in Mt. Clemens, Mich., where Rock Kuchenmeister, general manager, says the firm’s “Team K/E” initiative is specifically centered on creating an atmosphere of teamwork and collective success.
For example, the company’s bonus structures are based largely on teamwork and team-centric efforts, both throughout different departments and across different branches. The family-owned firm also uses a “Family First” approach that helps workers attain the kind of work-life balance that keeps valued staff members happy and loyal.
“Labor is definitely a big topic right now for electrical distribution,” says Rock Kuchenmeister, general manager at K/E Electric Supply Co., in Mt. Clemens, Mich. “We’re all dealing with generational gaps, succession planning, and a tighter labor market.” To offset these challenges, Kuchenmeister says the company is hiring new, untrained staff members and then putting much time and effort into training these individuals. (The company also has a strong corporate culture centered on employee development that you can read about in How NAED Members Develop and Hone Their Corporate Cultures.)
Take Training to a New Level
Maggie Wenthe, Des Moines, Iowa-based ITA Group’s incentive and recognition solution manager, sees training as an excellent tool that distributors can use to buck the “employee disloyalty” trend. The typical employee, she says, really wants to be able to master his or her position, understand where the growth opportunities are, learn new skills, and acquire new knowledge. When a distributor can help make some or all of these things happen, it puts itself in a more valued position in the eyes of that worker.
“Whether someone wants to move up the ladder or make a lateral move into a new department or job function, he or she needs the training and support to make that happen,” says Wenthe, whose firm approaches employee training and engagement from five different angles: Performance, career, wellness (personal, health, financial, etc.), social (recognition programs, spot awards from managers, etc.), and community (giving back, volunteering, and so forth).
Wenthe says the 5-pronged approach tends to resonate especially well with younger workers—many of whom are interested in “giving back” and getting involved with important community activities and causes. “Millennials really want to know that they can make a difference, both in and out of the workplace,” says Wenthe. “When you consider all five buckets (i.e., performance, career, wellness, social, and community), you can hit on all of the areas that really mean something to your employees.”
Don’t Just Set it and Forget it
When it comes to training, Kate Zabriskie, founder and president of Business Training Works, Inc., in Port Tobacco, Md., says companies have to be willing to put the time and energy into the process. It’s not enough to just put a new employee through the “initiation” process and then hope that he or she will absorb the knowledge, skillsets, and aptitudes via osmosis. “Good training doesn’t happen on its own,” Zabriskie warns. “Distributors have to do the hard work to figure out how they’re going to coach or mentor this person, what the worker’s ultimate goals are, and what it’s going to take to keep him or her onboard for the long term.”
Ignore these steps and it won’t be long before your top staff members begin looking elsewhere for employment—moves that cost the typical firm 150% of that exiting worker’s annual salary. Zabriskie says distributors can buck this trend by developing strong communication between employees and their supervisors/managers, creating clear advancement paths through the company, offering leadership training (to those who want it), and providing ongoing training/coaching/mentoring at all levels.
“These are obviously best practices regardless of which generation you’re talking about, but it’s even more important than ever with younger, millennial workers,” says Zabriskie. There’s no magic in it, she says, and many times it’s as simple as asking questions like: How do you like your job? What’s working for you? What’s not working for you? What questions can I answer for you? “Millennials haven’t been in the workforce long enough to tell you that you’re not doing something right, so take the time to get strategic and tactical in your employee development approach. When you do this, the rewards will come.”
SIDEBAR: Tips for Improving Employee Loyalty
In 10 Steps to Increasing Employee Loyalty, Chad Halvorson shows how companies can do a better job of keeping staff members engaged and in place for as long as possible. He suggests:
- Increase confidence in leadership. When employees see the management team excelling and the company doing well, that positive energy will flow downhill and enthuse even the most jaded employee.
- Improve company culture. As a manager, it’s your responsibility to keep your finger on the pulse of the company’s culture and address any interpersonal problems that arise without “meddling” in personal affairs.
- Enhance education and equipment. One of the most common sources of employee frustration is not having adequate training or resources to get the job done.
- Nip problems in the bud. Look for warning signs before things come to a head. And when you spot an issue, deal with it sooner than later, but deal with it fairly.
Read the full article online here.
McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.
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