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Building Loyalty: the challenge ahead Published: Saturday, December 24, 2011 8:00 am By: Ramůn L. Rivera, President & CEO

         Organizational forms have changed in the early 21stcentury. The number of virtual organizations is on the rise with the advent of technology, high speed Internet communications, and innovative business operational models. Technology advances have made possible the outsourcing of not only manufacturing but also knowledge-based processes. In many cases, value streams and processes are monitored from a single global point. With increased uncertainty as to continued employment, job role, and the organizational commitment to the employee, pressure builds on individuals and creates emotional turmoil. Potentially, people become more likely to be loyal to their profession than their employers.

         People feel less anchored to an organization when they are required to change the way they work on a frequent basis and donít fully understand the need for the changes surrounding them. This in turn leads to lower levels of affective and continuance commitment. When organizations undertake changes that affect employees to such a fundamental level, it signals a change in the organizational culture.  Organizational culture helps create shared values and meanings within a group of individuals.  People see this cultural change and, if not convinced as to why it is needed, begin to develop their own counter-cultures to deal with these radical changes (Robbins, 2005).

         Our research and experimentation on loyalty suggests several actions organizations and individuals can take to directly influence the behaviors of employees and build up commitment levels towards the organization. A fundamental rule that managers should always keep in mind is to remember that employees are people, not just resources.  Get to know them.  Managers should know their direct employees like they know business facts and figures.  Is your top employee married with three children or single?  What professional associations are they a part of?  Not knowing this type of information disables managers from being effective in building commitment. 

         To achieve greater employee commitment; the organization must focus on the individual from the very beginning. Commitment should be addressed by engaging employees through education, participation, development, and motivation. People expect those opportunities from an organization and their affective commitment will rise as a result of this skill increase. Employers need to acknowledge they can no longer guarantee long term employment and that employees need to work with employers to identify and gain the skills training they need. This helps the employee gain skills and advancement opportunities while raising their satisfaction level with the organization.

         An employeeís ability to see the connection between his or her work and the companyís strategic objectives is a powerful driver of positive behavior. People expect employers to give them challenging work assignments that are not beneath them or repetitive in nature. Organizations need to create a work environment that allows employees to be independent, increase their skills sets, and challenge their intellect (Jamrog, 2002). By offering enhanced work and life benefits that provide flexibility and linkage to the organization, managers increase loyalty and trust with employees.

         Clear communication of strategy and direction are needed more than ever for todayís employee. The less distortion that occurs in communication, the more the goals, feedback, and other management messages to employees will be received as they were intended.  This, in turn, should reduce ambiguities and clarify the groupís task.  Extensive use of vertical, lateral, and informal channels will increase communication flow, reduce uncertainty, and improve group performance and satisfaction. 

         Managers need to understand that the working environment has changed. Employees hold more power concerning whether they stay or leave the organization.  Simply relying on the unspoken promise of ensured employee with commitment and quality work does not inspire employee tenure. Although there is a potentially large pool of low cost outsourced labor, talented employees are becoming scarce.  Managers need to reassure employees of their value to the organization and where they fit in the changing landscape as they evolve.  Without some sort of assurance as to why changes are made, barriers to exit the company are lowered and commitment levels to the organization erode.

         Motivating employees through mentorship efforts, self-development, and professional pride are additional steps managers can take to continue to build employee commitment. Organizational culture needs to adjust within the organization to allow more independence and risk taking.  Employees want excitement and the ability to take chances.  Cultures that are too rigid or highly documented restrain creativity and independence; something employees are looking for in todayís market.

         The organizationís culture should also reward effective employees and not successful employees; effective performance, not just successful socializing and politicking. This holds true for both employees and managers. Benefits should be enhanced to further build confidence in employees as to the organizationís commitment to them.  These enhanced benefits donít necessarily need to be monetary, but they should pertain to matters the employee feels strongly about. Managers will also benefit from a good feedback loop that allows them to see commitment strategies that work or donít work.  Managers need to build an authentic and trustworthy relation with employees over the long-term, if there is to be a long-term for the organization.


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