I have observed many firms attempt to create loyalty and an inspiration for hard work amongst their staff. One financial planning firm has actually gone to the extreme in attempting to create a staff of loyal, committed staff people. But what has transpired, instead, is more of an episode of The Office than a truly inspired workforce. The reason: loyalty is not something you can force upon people or manufacture; it is earned through the relationships you establish with your employees.
In an attempt to motivate and inspire the staff of 15, this firm holds a weekly, 1½ hour Monday morning rally/staff meeting. Each person is required to speak into a microphone and tell the rest of the staff what they did the week before and what the current week holds for them (sounds good so far, right). There is also often a 15-30 minute assigned book report delivered by an employee. Once a month a PowerPoint on the state of the company is presented by all the staff who stand and face the group to talk about what’s working and what isn’t in their department or area. Each person also must take a minute to speak about something positive that happened to them the past week and they are required to state why it is positive to them. They close every Monday staff meeting, in the spirit of Sam Walton and Wal-Mart, with a company “cheer” that the employees must stand up and yell. The problem is, the employees aren’t willing participants. This has been mandated to do – with a smile. Now, the intentions on the part of management are good, but the result, unfortunately, is a staff that dreads the meeting, finds excuses to miss the meeting, takes vacation days on Monday’s, and moreover is fearful to admit this to company leaders for fear of having to lead the cheer the next week.
So how do you create loyal, motivated employees if you can’t make them stand and cheer…
Leadership 101, the Hawthorne Effect (study by Harvard)*, and almost all research conducted on workforce development have suggested that the way you create a loyal and inspired workforce is through changing the way employees feel about the organization, not by requiring them do things that already loyal people would be inclined to do (manufacturing loyalty). Studies done over nearly the past 100 years have shown that it is the time and attention individually paid to employees and a valuation of their work through compensation and acknowledged appreciation that causes them to value the work they are doing, like their place of employment and who they are working for, and inspires them to give of themselves in a way that isn’t required.
In the case of Wal-Mart, the morning cheer was started as part of a culture of a store founded by enthusiastic “hog-calling” Arkansas Razorback fans that already liked going to work and had a passion for what they were doing. The key word is: already.