The Blog

How to Create Loyal Employees

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Corporate culture is increasingly seen as a powerful brand differentiator today. Just check out the behind-the-scenes Instagram stories about some of your favorite brands. Having a strong culture filled with engaged employees helps attract and retain more great employees. The ultimate result is higher revenues. You can build workforce loyalty with recognition and appreciation, but you need to go further.

A good place to start is by understanding how strongly loyal employees are associated with innovation and better customer relationships. Strong employee morale tends go along with stronger customer morale.

Loyal Workforce = Better Innovation

The reason for the increased enthusiasm for innovation has to do with risk-taking. Someone stuck in a business with a strong "That's the way we've always done it" philosophy will naturally be averse to taking risks. Of course, not all innovative ideas come to fruition, but when employees know their ideas are welcomed, and that reasonable risks are OK, they're more likely to move forward with innovative products and services.

The engaged workforce is more likely to be geared toward continuous improvement and is less afraid of innovation, because they know everyone's goal is to make customers happy. Monitoring employee engagement and motivation can actually prevent some types of incidents that shake employee morale.

Gauge Loyalty More Frequently

Time-to-market is a big advantage in a small business. One of the great things about smaller businesses is that they can turn on a dime, unlike bigger, more entrenched businesses. Tracking employee engagement alongside more traditional business metrics like time-to-market helps prevent problems and keep small problems manageable before they can manifest and sour employee morale. In fact, if you prioritize employee engagement as a leading rather than a lagging indicator of problems things like missed deadlines and unexpected resignations will not happen as often.

Employee Appreciation Pays Off.

Making a concerted effort to have public employee appreciation can pay off, quite literally. A SHRM/Globoforce survey from 2015 reported that employee appreciation and recognition programs that spent more than 1% of payroll on employee rewards and incentives paid off most in terms of overall business health. Workplace psychology researchers theorize this is because the necessary communication of appreciation is accompanied by tangible proof (in some form of bonus) of a worker's value to the business. Don't be afraid to exceed 1% of payroll when budgeting for employee recognition. It can pay off in terms of team cohesiveness, which are associated with innovation and happier customers.

Some Small Business Ideas for Boosting Employee Engagement

Don't worry: small business ideas for increasing employee loyalty aren't expected to compete with the lavish rewards that giant organizations like Facebook can afford to offer. Here are a few ideas for you to consider:
Clearly focus on career development - Employees want to be reassured knowing their company is invested in their career and opportunities for advancement.
Celebrate important achievements - You need to publicly acknowledge individual and team accomplishments. When you appreciate and honor star players they keep performing.
Organize social activities - Organize fun activities like a day for employees and families at an amusement park, surprise spa gift cards or a "give back to the community" program that support local needs through donations of money or time.
Undoubtedly, you've heard the term "employee engagement" a million times and may consider it just another buzzword. But employee engagement is something to work toward and be proud of, whether you call it that, or one of its other names, like motivation or morale. Rare is the business that can get away with a poorly engaged workforce, where the workday is 100% work and personal lives and goals never enter the picture. Lack of employee engagement affects business performance, and not in a good way. Mutual trust, honest communication, and recognition of accomplishments are all essential elements of dynamic teamwork and cohesion. In fact, rather than employee "engagement," you might think even bigger, in terms of employee "matrimony," where you and your team can work happily ever after.

Are you a small business owner who wants to solidify your skills and do everything you can to maximize long term success? If so, I invite you to get my book Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months. Read these pages and you won't neglect important tasks, you'll build a more loyal workforce, and eventually you'll find you're your own best boss ever.