By Bridget McCrea
Creating a great corporate culture can not only boost morale, but it can improve your business as well. tED magazine is bringing you “Culture Fridays,” with exclusive feature articles about creating, engaging and maintaining the corporate culture that works for you, your people, and ultimately your bottom line. Click below to read our previous culture pieces.
Change is Inevitable: Creating a Fluid Corporate Culture
The Customer Satisfaction-Corporate Culture Connection
Six Ways to Turn Your Corporate Culture Around… Now!
Short-Term Wins, Long-Term Gains
The correlation between dedicated employees and loyal customers may not always be obvious, but that connection is always there and definitely worth paying attention to, according to Dov Baron, author of Fiercely Loyal: How High Performing Companies Develop and Retain Top Talent, speaker, and president of consulting firm Full Monty Leadership in British Columbia.
“If your people aren’t loyal to your company, then your customers won’t be either,” says Baron. “Despite what many people assume, it’s not just about paychecks. Money doesn’t keep people loyal. They want to know that someone cares about them.” When companies care, Baron adds, employees quickly turn into evangelists who create new business and cultivate existing clients and accounts. “They’ll get out there and tell everyone about what you’re doing and how great you are – both of which are extremely important in a ‘relationship’ business like electrical distribution.”
Stop the Revolving Door
According to Baron, the average employer spends 1.5 to 2 times the average annual individual’s salary training and developing that person. Put simply, this means that if employees don’t stay onboard for at least two years, the return on investment (ROI) for them is zero. “Every employee who doesn’t stay for at least two years is costing you money,” Baron points out. “This is just one of many reasons why loyalty needs to be woven into your company’s corporate culture.”
While employee loyalty has been on the minds of company leaders for decades, Baron says today’s firms are particularly challenged when it comes to finding, retaining, and cultivating great workers. That’s because the millennial generation (which will be aged 19 to 35 in 2016) is changing jobs every 1.2 to 2.4 years and completely changing their careers every four years. This can pose challenges for the electrical distribution firms that needs at least that much time to properly train both sales and non-sales employees on the fine points of this specialized industry.
The good news, says Baron, is that millennials learn the ropes pretty quickly – compared to older generations. “These individuals were born with technology at their fingertips and they’re used to a faster pace and brisker learning environment,” he says. “The distributors that find out how to take advantage of this will be the ones that more effectively leverage this younger generation’s talent and skill sets.”
“Back in the day, people did 3- to 5-year-long apprenticeships to learn about technical trades and applications,” Baron points out. “Now, millennials simply go to YouTube and learn the same stuff in 20 minutes. And the people who watch that video 40 times can probably get it down pat in a pretty short amount of time.”
This speedy, “screen-oriented” mentality has also created a more impatient generation of workers who need regular challenges and interesting projects to keep them engaged and loyal. “They get bored much faster,” says Baron, “and they don’t buy into the philosophy that you have to ‘put your head down and pay your dues for the next three years.’ They’re not interested in that, so you can’t expect it to happen that way.”
The Four “Cs”
Overcoming millennial-related employment issues and cultivating a loyal employee pool in an era where 78 million+ baby boomers are either already retired or on the verge of doing so, requires a tight focus on the “4 Cs” that Baron advocates during speaking engagements and in his books. “Your company’s core purpose must be driven around something bigger than the firm itself,” he points out. “If you want people to be fiercely loyal, you have to operate from the 4 Cs.” He highlights the Cs here and explains each:
- Collaboration: “Develop an intrapreneurial organization,” Baron says, “where millennials and other employees are encouraged to invent and create new approaches, ideas, and even products.” A distributor, for example, can ask employees to help develop programs and/or collaborate with other workers on how to solve internal company problems. “Allow the people who work for you to truly be part of your organization,” he adds.
- Cooperation: This C goes against everything you’ve probably learned about competition, says Baron, who advises leaders to get out into the business world and cooperate with a wide range of individuals – including your competitors. “Look at how you can serve together, and how you can cooperate versus compete with one another,” Baron advises. “Then, teach your team members to do the same.”
- Community: By their very nature, millennials like to know that they are part of something that’s “bigger than themselves.” By positioning your distributorship to be a key part of its community (region, country, planet – you name it, says Baron), you’ll be able to form better bonds with your employees. They, in turn, will express more loyalty as a result. “Make sure your purpose is connected to the community,” says Baron, “and that your employees are aware of these efforts and that they also have a stake in it.”
- Contribution: Go beyond the mindset of, “If my employees are loyal to me, I’ll be loyal to them,” and think about the contributions that you both can make to shore up a strong, loyal relationship with one another. Think about how you both can effectively contribute to the community mentioned in #3, for example, and work together for a common good (not just increased sales or a better bottom line in 2016). “Give your employees a reason to contribute and to be loyal,” says Baron. “This is a vital step that shouldn’t be overlooked.”
Leading the Way
Knowing that electrical distributors may need to go through some “re-wiring” of their own to achieve the levels of loyalty covered in this article, Baron says the first step is simply to “go first.” Leaders lead, he says, and the company that shows loyalty before employees even deserve or earn it will be the one that winds up cultivating the most loyal workforce.
“You’ve really got to create that loyalty,” says Baron, who points to the high cost of losing an employee within 24 months as a key motivational factor. “Imagine the massive difference in your bottom line if someone stayed for just one more year? That alone would be an incredible gain for any company.”
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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