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Marketers know that die-hard customer loyalty is the key to building great brands. But businesses often overlook the fact that keeping stellar employees engaged also depends on an intangible, emotional connection. 

Think about it this way: Satisfied customers don’t necessarily come back, and they don’t sing your praises. Loyal ones do. So what is it that moves a customer from satisfied to loyal? And can we use the same understanding to make top performers happier in their jobs?

Studies presented in Human Sigma by Dr. John Fleming, a Gallup researcher, support that the movement from satisfaction to loyalty happens because of an emotional connection a customer has to a brand, product, person or company. It’s both “what” (you deliver) and “how” (you deliver it). Let’s call this the "loyalty formula":

  • If we don’t get it right, we create a dissatisfied customer. These customers don’t return.
  • If we get it right – deliver the service or product as expected – then we create a satisfied customer. These customers may return.
  • If we get it right and do something more – something that creates an emotional connection – then we create a loyal customer. These customers not only return, but they become brand evangelists.

Creating a Loyal Workplace Environment

What happens when we apply this thinking to our employees? There are several things companies need to set in place in order for employees to do their jobs well. Clearly defining roles and expectations, providing meaningful performance feedback and offering a clear career path are just a few workplace engagement practices – the "what" – that employers need to deliver. 

The key to creating loyalty, however, is how companies deliver these practices. 

Let’s consider the different ways to deliver performance feedback, applying the loyalty formula:

  • Not getting it right: Your employees get their performance reviews only once a year. This lack of regular, meaningful performance feedback creates a poor relationship between the employee and your company – not only do employees not know the quality of their work, they also lose respect for management. This creates a dissatisfied employee who becomes actively disengaged at work, and then leaves.
  • Getting it right: Your employees have weekly structured performance feedback. Each week, employees and management sit together to review the previous week’s work, effort and impact. This meets the organization’s goals and employees are “satisfied” with the regular contact. In this case, employees have what they need to do the job, but they are still missing an emotional connection. Employees do good work, not great work.
  • Getting it right and doing something more: You work closely with your employees and provide both corrective and supportive feedback as events happen. Your management style is to stay connected in real-time with employees. Employees now build a strong personal relationship with their management – one that can handle discussions of any topic. This level of performance encourages an employee to stay.

Most of the reasons employees (and customers) leave are because we don't think proactively about the steps necessary to make them choose to stay. In the workplace, we have to provide what employees need to do their jobs well – every time, all the time. We also have to provide that important emotional connection – helping an employee apply his or her heart to the work, workplace, manager and team.

In other words, it’s all about remembering the “human” in human capital.

Photo: Shutterstock