There are many elements of employee satisfaction, but none may be as important as happiness and loyalty. LovetoKnow spoke with authors and business experts Lerzan Aksoy and Timothy Keiningham, authors of Why Loyalty Matters. Aksoy is the Associate Profess or of Marketing, Fordham University Schools and Business, while Keiningham is the Global Chief Strategy Officer and EVP, Ipsos Loyalty.
Dr. Aksoy received recognition as the top young scientist of 2007 in Turkey by the Junior Chamber International (TOYP Award for Scientific Leadership). She also received the "Werner Von Siemens" and the "Magis" Excellence Awards for research, teaching and social contribution. Her previous books on loyalty and ground-breaking research have added new insights into customer loyalty and satisfaction for marketers worldwide.
Dr. Keiningham is one of the world's most highly acclaimed loyalty experts. He is global chief strategy officer at Ipsos Loyalty, one of the world's largest market research firms. His many awards include the Marketing Science Institute/H. Paul Root Award from the Journal of Marketing for the article judged to represent the most significant contribution to the advancement of the practice of marketing, the Citations of Excellence Top 50 Award (top 50 management papers of approximately 20,000 papers reviewed that year) from Emerald Management Reviews, and many others.
LovetoKnow was fortunate to speak with these two distinguished marketing researchers and glean their insights into the fascinating world of employee loyalty and satisfaction.
Elements of Employee Satisfaction
First, Drs. Aksoy and Keiningham discussed employee loyalty and satisfaction.
Are loyal employees satisfied employees?
In our view, a loyal employee would almost always be satisfied, but a satisfied employee is not necessarily loyal. What distinguishes a loyal employee from a merely satisfied one is that a loyal employee must feel a commitment to the company, and behave in a way that demonstrates this commitment. Loyalty is a function of attitude and behavior not an either/or situation. For example, many of us have experienced situations where we feel hostaged to a workplace we are not happy with either because the economy was not doing well, or we have not been successful in landing a new job. Not leaving doesn't make you loyal. And simply feeling a connection to the company isn't enough to be loyal either.
How do you define loyalty?
Loyalty is accepting the bonds that our relationships with others entail and acting in a way that defends and reinforces the attachment inherent in these relationships. Another way to think about it is that loyalty is the counterpart to the word 'my'. Loyalty implies specialness to the relationship-in some way we see it as belonging to us. The word 'my' implies psychological ownership. We "own" things because they bring value to our lives; otherwise, we would discard them. But ownership is about more than deriving pleasure. Ownership demands responsibility. When a relationship falls into the category of 'my,' that responsibility is our loyalty.
Ipsos Loyalty Study
What is the Ipsos Loyalty Study? Did you conduct the study?
The Ipsos Loyalty study is the most comprehensive study of loyalty ever conducted. Ipsos is one of the world's largest survey research companies.
We designed the study, interviewing thousands of people from around the world to understand the current state of loyalty in all of the major domains of our lives: family, friends, faith, work, as customers, and to our communities.
Other studies related to loyalty have exclusively focused a single domain of loyalty, most often customer or employee loyalty. While this is understandable, it has caused us to miss the interconnectedness of our loyalties to our success and happiness at work and personal lives. Our loyalties across the domains are like an ecosystem, where actions in one area tend to have downstream consequences in other areas.
Next, the authors answered more questions about employee loyalty.
We know that businesses must earn the loyalty of customers. But how can they earn the loyalty of employees?
The reality is that employees are only as loyal as they perceive their employer to be to them. While philosophers and religious avatars promote the need to "be good" to those who are not good to you, it is very difficult for most of us in practice. It violates our sense of justice and fair play.
As a result, the first step is to make certain that as managers, we demonstrate that we are worthy of our employees' loyalty.
Can you give our readers concrete steps to take to earn loyalty and increase employee satisfaction?
Building a loyalty-driven organization won't just happen. It requires questioning some current beliefs and changing some longstanding behaviors.
- Start with a self-assessment: Building loyal relationships professionally and personally should always begin with a valid self-assessment. Improving connections with others invariably begins with improving oneself as a leader, manager, and colleague. Knowing how one interacts with others is critical. Where do your loyalties really lie?
Most people believe that they are much more loyal-and therefore much more deserving of loyalty-than others perceive them to be. Therefore, being completely objective in self evaluation and the input gathered from others regarding perceptions of our loyalty is critical.
- Measure employees' perceptions of the organization: Collecting information on employee loyalty is simple. All it requires is a good survey process. The key is to provide a forum where employees feel comfortable sharing their real feelings without fear of a negative backlash. Realize that while getting information on employee loyalty is relatively straightforward, meaningfully acting on this information typically is not. It requires assessing and adjusting the policies, practices, and procedures of the organization as well as the behaviors that get rewarded, supported, and expected with regard to relationship building.
- Know the goals and dreams of your colleagues: No one goes to work to make someone else rich. While most people work in part because they have to survive, they also want work to give them a sense of accomplishment. Managers need to help those who report to them, and those with whom they work directly to get greater fulfillment from their work. But making this happen on a regular basis demands that they know what it is that leaves them feeling invigorated. While the requisite tasks of any job won't always be fun, research interviews with tens of thousands of people from all over the world leaves one inevitable conclusion: our work can enrich our lives. And when we feel like we are part of something important, we are inspired to do more. It is the role of every leader to find the cause that inspires others.
- Avoid the blame game: Unfortunately, many managers are slow to identify members of their teams except when it is time to assign blame. Playing the blame game is the most corrosive acid known to relationships. Everyone fails, unless they never take risks. And a company that never takes a risk is a company that will fail. Great managers are generous in sharing credit, and when it comes to assigning blame, the buck stops with them.
- Recognize excellent performance: What you reward gets repeated. But how often do we offer praise? We don't mean the general praise that in effect says, "Great job team, whoever you are." The reality is that general praise has no impact. We need to get into the habit of finding people doing the right thing and recognizing it immediately. By doing this, we demonstrate that we not only know but really appreciate these individuals. The great thing about appreciation is that it doesn't just benefit the recipient. It benefits us as well.
Unique Tools to Build Loyalty
What is the P2R2 tool mentioned in the book?
P2R2 stands for Pinpoint, Prioritize, Reinforce, and Reach Out. It's a simple acronym for a step by step process to improve our loyalties in all areas of our lives. Using this process will build employee satisfaction.Specifically, P2R2 works as follows:
- PINPOINT where you are. In particular:
- What relationships are you currently invested in?
- Who do you consistently connect with?
- What constituents do you feel a strong sense of loyalty
- Which issues hold special significance to you?
- PRIORITIZE those things that matter by really understanding how you spend your time, and how you should be allocating your time based upon those loyalties that matter most to your success and happiness.
- REINFORCE your connections. Make a commitment to honor those relationships that are important to your success and happiness, and follow through on this commitment
- REACH OUT to others.
Tell me more about how manager's relationships and managing styles impact loyalty and employee satisfaction.
Our research finds that individuals have different relationship styles in terms of how they connect with other people. We uncovered 10 dimensions of a person's "Relationship DNA" such as leadership, connectedness, empathy, problem focused coping, emotion focused coping, security etc. Each of have our strengths in how we reach out and connect to others. If a manager knows his/her style and the style of his/her peers, this information can be used to develop new relationships or even improve existing relationships.To make this more than scientific jargon, we created a web-based tool, Loyalty Advisor, so that people can understand and leverage their unique Relationship DNA. It also provides us with the opportunity to collect confidential feedback from friends, family, and work colleagues on how they perceive our loyalty to them.
Is there a way for companies to accurately measure and track loyalty and satisfaction?
Absolutely! This is an area of serious research over the past 30 years, so the measures are quite good.It is almost never the ability to track loyalty and satisfaction that keeps it from happening. Rather, it is the will to do it within companies. Why? The problem here is often a lack of desire to hear bad news. And without question, this kind of company internal examination always yields bad news. The reality is that employees are only as loyal to the company as they believe the company is loyal to them.
If loyalty and employee satisfaction are really poor at a company, is it possible to rebuild it?
We have all heard turnaround stories of broken companies, so the answer is yes, it can be done. But the reason we aren't bombarded with turnaround stories is that it is hard. Loyalty takes time to develop. And bad histories tend to stay in our hearts and minds longer than we would like. But it is possible to move an organization to a better place relatively quickly, even if a full-fledged loyalty-driven organization will take time.
The place to begin is with thorough assessment of the organization's climate for service. Do you really have policies, practices, and procedures and reward and recognition mechanisms in place that are designed to promote a culture of service? You can be virtually certain that if a company's loyalty levels are under water, then its policies and reward structures are completely out of whack.
For more information, please visit their website, Why Loyalty Matters.