Loyalty, Motivation and Work-Life Balance

By Barry Maher


Managers who aren’t loyal to their people can’t expect loyalty in return. Companies that complain about employee loyalty have usually done nothing to earn loyalty, often routinely lying to employees, demanding sacrifices that are never rewarded, shunting them aside and casting them off in the name of good business.

I know of one organization that routinely takes top performing managers and sticks them in problem markets. Fair enough. What isn’t fair is that these managers are paid on an inflexible bonus and override system. Which means that their reward for doing a superior job and for helping the company out is a massive cut in pay. And frequently a poor evaluation if they fail to turn the market around quickly enough.

And upper management can not understand the lack of loyalty throughout the company. Or why they have the highest turnover rate of in their industry.


Teams and Teamwork

During the Civil War, a reporter asked General Grant how long it would take him to reach Richmond. “I will agree to be there in about four days,” Grant answered. “That is, if General Lee becomes a party to the agreement. But if he objects, the trip will undoubtedly be prolonged.”

When supposed teammates aren’t really teammates, the journey toward the goal will undoubtedly be prolonged.

Sidney Harman was chairman of Harman International, maker of high-end sound systems like JBL and Infinity. “We attract people who over time become persuaded that this company is their company and they are going to give it their all,” he said. “When people determine to give it their all, the levels of productivity you see will blow your mind.”

To motivate employees to see the company as their company, Harman International does everything possible to avoid layoffs. When demand is down, the company keeps production workers busy in security or maintenance or landscaping rather than downsizing them. They’re paid their normal wages. Employees benefit and Harman International retains its highly trained, loyal, motivated workforce.

To keep the channels of communication open between management and labor, every single executive spends time every month on the production line. Top management also discourages the use of temps. And there’s no such thing as a permanent temp. If they stay past a certain point, they become regular workers with full benefits.

Nowadays this may seem like radical, outside the box thinking. Or maybe it’s inside a box so out of fashion that few other companies ever both to look inside. Either way it’s turned Harman International into an industry leader, a company with $1.4 billion in annual sales. Ed Boyd, Senior VP of Manufacturing, says, “I’ve worked for four corporations on three continents and this is by far the most motivated group of individuals I’ve ever been associated with.”

That’s a team.


Speaking of Motivation: Work-Life Balance

One recent study found that “management recognition of the importance of personal and family life” was the most important factor in creating employee loyalty. It also found that employees who were allowed to spend a moderate amount of time on personal matters during work time—even if it was merely making a few personal phone calls—were more committed to their employers than those who weren’t.

Yet in a recent survey of CEOs by the Conference Board, only one percent cited “helping employees achieve work-life balance” as their top concern. Well, it might not be number one, but it better be up there. In still another study—this one done by the Families and Work Institute and funded by corporations like AT&T, Xerox, Allstate, American Express and IBM—thirty-eight percent of workers said employees who put personal or family needs ahead of their jobs were not looked upon favorably by their employer.

Tip: Any manager who expects his people to put the company’s needs ahead of their own needs and the needs of their loved ones is not bright enough to be a manager. How many managers put company needs ahead of their own?

Tip: Too many.

According to the Associated Press, the Families and Work Institute study “paints a portrait of a hard worker who feels burned out from balancing work and family life yet cares intensely about performing well on the job.”

In the words of AT&T spokesman, Burke Stinson, “the study validates what we’d believed for a long while.” When employees get more freedom to take care of their family priorities, productivity does not suffer, just the opposite. “Employees who feel as if they’re being treated fairly will treat their employers at least as fairly in return.”

And factors like employment security, flexible scheduling and supportive work relationships reduce burnout, increase loyalty and generate greater effort.

Of course whenever studies like these are done, the question some always ask is, Why do employers have to fund studies to discover what their employers are thinking?


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