“Morale is the state of mind. It is steadfastness and courage and hope. It is confidence and zeal and loyalty. It is elan, esprit de corps and determination.” — George Catlett Marshall
Employee turnover is expensive. One of the most important factors in retaining employees is the integrity of the employer. A national employee survey by the non-profit Hudson Institute and Walker Information, an Indianapolis research company, revealed that only 9 percent of the employees who believed they were led by less than ethical executives were loyal to the company. However, 55 percent of the workers with ethical leaders wanted to remain.
Though the survey did not show it, I believe there’s an additional benefit in trusting employers. Chances are excellent that if employees trust their employers, they consider them friends, so they want to please them. As a result, their enthusiasm for the job is higher, which increases their job security and gives them a better chance for a raise or promotion.
Reputation counts. When I was a youngster working in a grocery store, my boss was approached by an individual with a business opportunity. My boss listened attentively, asked questions, and, finally, told the man that he was not interested. At my age, I thought it was a fabulous “deal,” so I asked my boss why he didn’t get involved.
His answer was short, profound and to the point: “You can’t make a good deal with a bad guy.” That’s the way many employees feel toward their employers — if they are “good guys,” they’ll stick around and follow them; if they are “bad guys,” no way will they stay.
Business executive Alan Wagner has some beautiful insights into dealing with employees in any kind of business environment. He says they need to know that you are a real person with a genuine interest in them. He points out that he regularly visits around the “company store,” shakes hands, gets a look into his employees’ eyes, engages in a small amount of personal conversation, and makes his employees feel they are important — because they are.
Wagner goes ahead to say that in difficult times, that personal relationship will make a huge difference in what happens as far as productivity, loyalty and enthusiasm for the job are concerned.
He also says that in the event your store is unionized, when union members clearly see that you’re one of the “good guys” with a genuine interest in your employees, negotiations take on an entirely different tone, and the adversarial role is nonexistent. They become team players, recognizing that there are two sides to every question and that it’s easier to negotiate with someone you not only respect but genuinely like than it is if the relationship is acrimonious. He feels that being genuinely interested in the other person frequently makes the difference between a profitable operation and an unprofitable one.
One other factor in all of this is that the example the employer sets, as far as his own personal attitude is concerned, does make a difference. The employer can complain about how difficult it is to get good help, or he can express appreciation for the fact that he does have good help. In the process, he is making his employees feel they are important, that their jobs are important and that their performance is appreciated. That has a bearing on the bottom line, doesn’t it?
Way back in World War II, we used to laughingly say that we were going to “sink the officer’s quarters.” The reality is you can’t do that — if you sink part of the ship, you sink all of it. When the company goes under, everyone is hurt.
Yes, in this tight job market, there is definitely something employers can do to keep the good employees around. Be the right kind of person, do the right thing, and you’ll have a more productive, loyal workforce.
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