Why do some companies have content, loyal, and highly productive employees while other companies can claim none of these and only wish they could?

Is it that the smarty pants company where everybody’s happy has the nicest building? Is it because of the awesome website? Is it the cool products?

The answers are NO, NO, and NO! Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like there’s anything wrong with any of these things, it’s just that I don’t believe it’s necessarily about trappings, flash, or hardware. I believe it’s about deserving.

How does your company ensure it “deserves” the best talent?

First, your company must “Invest like you care” – People that will win for you must be valued the way employees believe they should be – not just based on the balance sheet. If employees are treated as liabilities versus assets, you can forget loyalty and passion.

And what does “invest” really mean? I believe this includes 4 key factors: (1) how you find and secure the best talent available; (2) how you pay people what they are worth; (3) how you ensure people have the tools they need to succeed; and (4) how you enable employees to live a fulfilling and balanced life.

The possibilities are endless for a company that has the right people, the best people. If you don’t invest to find, pay, support, and fulfill the best people, can you really expect to get and keep them?

After making the right investments, it’s time to “Listen like you care.” People need to know they matter, and the best way to show it is to really listen to them. Just consider the legendary Harvard business study that described “The Hawthorne Effect.” The study was designed to test changes in productivity resulting from changes in the work environment.

In the study, researchers had the lighting increased in the workplace and saw productivity rise. Then they decreased the lighting and assumed productivity would decrease – but again it increased. The Hawthorne researchers had stumbled upon the fact that workers were just responding to being paid attention to!

Now couple that result with how you personally feel about being listened to and having others demonstrate they believe your opinion is important – isn’t that a great source of fulfillment, loyalty, and motivation?

So maybe your company invests and listens well, but you can still struggle mightily to increase employee contentment, loyalty, and productivity unless you also “Trust like you care.” In The 8th Habit, From Effectiveness to Greatness by Steven R. Covey, the results of a Harris Poll revealed that only 15% believe they work in a high-trust environment. Can we really be content, loyal, and productive when trust does not exist?

Trust comes from many things, obviously including people feeling they are safe from harm. But how about people feeling they can be what they are and do not have to conform unreasonably? I believe that if you want the greatest commitment from people, you’re far more likely to get it if people are asked to be great at what they are, versus trying to be what you want them to be. Leveraging people’s strengths is the ultimate act of leadership trust.

I recall from my own sometimes-painful senior leadership experience that trust is defined by much more than people feeling safe from harm. What I learned is that people really need to be believed in, and also that accomplishing this requires true leadership greatness.

Ask yourself if your company deserves to get and keep the best people. I suggest you consider using these key factors – investing, listening, and trusting – as a checklist to assess your company’s leadership greatness. Ask yourself if your company really cares.

Thanks for sharing time with me and I welcome your thoughts and comments.

A quick update on my search consultancy: I have had the great pleasure of receiving a number of recent referrals to new clients by existing clients and friends in the market. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate these expressions of confidence. Please keep in mind that I am always interested in meeting smart, sophisticated, and principled companies that welcome the value that our firm’s professional search consultancy brings to them. The right people are hard to find and even harder to match to a culture, and I’m proud to be able to help my clients accomplish these goals.

Book Recommendation: The 8th Habit, From Excellence to Greatness – Steven R. Covey

Jeff Black, Principal Consultant
McDermott & Bull Executive Search
Cell: (714) 356-1949 Office: (949) 753-1700 ext. 310
2 Venture, Suite 100 Irvine, CA 92618