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Motivating salespeople

How you can improve employer/employee commitment.

by Terry Bragg

Loyal and committed employees do better work than uncommitted employees. Companies with committed employees do better financially than companies with uncommitted workers. Yet, less than half the employees in today's workforce feel committed to their employer.

What's responsible for this disparity? Employers blame their workers, and workers blame their employers. Employers see today's workers as a disloyal group of free agents willing to jump ship for the slightest increase in pay or other enticement. Employers long for the days when good employees hired on and stayed with the same company for some measurable time.

According to employees, employers do not value loyalty and are willing to sacrifice workers to maintain the financial bottom line or to cover up for management blunders. Employees point to decades of downsizing, rightsizing and reengineering as evidence that their employers treat them as expendable commodities when times get tough.

Four types of employee commitment
There are four types of employee commitment: want to, have to, ought to and uncommitted.

The best type of employee commitment is "want to" commitment. In the extreme, they are the truly dedicated and loyal employees - the employer's dream employees. Employees who want to work for their employer outperform those that have to work for them. They are more willing to take on additional responsibility. They come to work with more positive attitudes and are more willing to put out extra effort when needed. 

Another type of employee commitment is "have to" commitment. People who have to work for their employer are trapped employees. They stay for many reasons. Some stay because they can't find other jobs or because they are not employable elsewhere. Others stay because of some compelling reason other than they like the job - medical, health or family issues, or they are close to retirement. Trapped employees would leave if they could, but they feel they can't. Unfortunately, trapped employees make up about 30 percent of the workforce. In the worst cases, they have bad attitudes, poor work habits and are a lot of trouble for their managers or supervisors.

What this means for employers is that the employees who do stay are not necessarily loyal by choice, and sometimes not the best employees. Companies often see this when they downsize or merge. The better qualified and more employable employees leave first. The company is then left with many employees trapped in their jobs at the company.

The third type of employee commitment is "ought to" commitment. These are the people who stay because they feel obligated to their employer. Perhaps their employer gave them a job when they badly needed one, or they have a value system that says staying with their employer is the right thing to do.

The disconnected or uncommitted comprise a fourth group of workers. These are the people who are not committed to staying, who are actively looking for other employment. These are the workers who are halfway out the door. In today's market, they compose about 25 percent to 30 percent of the workforce. They have little commitment and do not intend to stay.

Four types of employer commitment
Like employee commitment, employer commitment also comes in four types: want to, have to, ought to and uncommitted.

Employers who want to be committed to their employees do what's necessary to create attractive work environments. They value their employees and treat them as valuable associates in the business. They want the best employees and they want their employees to stay, grow and prosper as the business succeeds. Companies truly committed to their employees want to be known as the best places to work.

Other employers are committed to their employees only because they have to show some signs of commitment to attract and keep workers. These employers satisfy the legal requirements for compensation and safety and do what's necessary to stay competitive. They pay lip service to valuing employees when the labor market is tight, but quickly resort to downsizing during economic downturns. Most employers fall into this category. They often feel trapped by legal obligations for treating workers, or by competition to keep workers.

Some employers commit to their employees because they think they ought to. They feel obligated or they believe commitment is the right thing to do. They act based upon principle rather than economic necessity.

A fourth category of employers are the uncommitted employers. These employers run sweatshop operations where employees are treated as pieces of meat necessary to get the job done. These employers tolerate extremely high turnover and use dictatorial management to keep workers in line.

What's happened to employee/employer commitment? It's still there in several types. Many employers and employees are committed because they want to, others because they have to, and some because they ought to be committed.

How to nurture employee commitment and loyalty
Although many factors affect employee commitment to their employers, three contributors stand out as primary drivers: fairness, trust and care and concern for employees. They are also prerequisites for employee commitment and loyalty.

Four laws govern commitment and loyalty: the Law of Perception, the Platinum Rule, the Law of Reciprocity and the Law of Consistency.

The Law of Perception: Perception is reality. When it comes to commitment and loyalty, employees' perceptions of their employer are reality and misperceptions can devastate the workplace. To develop employee commitment and loyalty, you must carefully manage perceptions.

The Platinum Rule: Treat people the way they want to be treated. The modern workplace is not homogeneous. Everyone does not want the same things from their employer or their work. Instead of treating people the way you want to be treated, treat them the way they want you to treat them.

The Law of Reciprocity: You reap what you sow. You get what you give. To get commitment and loyalty from your employees, you must be committed and loyal to your employees. Commitment and loyalty are two-way contracts between employees and employers.

The Law of Consistency. You must be consistent in how you treat your employees. You build your reputation and maintain your credibility with consistent behavior. A single perceived violation can damage employee loyalty and commitment.

Three drivers of employee commitment and loyalty
Let's examine the three drivers of employee commitment and loyalty: fairness, trust, and care and concern for employees.

Fairness. According to Webster, fair implies the elimination of one's own feelings, prejudices and desires so as to achieve a proper balance of conflicting interests. Synonyms include just, unbiased and objective. The problem with fairness is that it is subjective. Again, perception is reality. To create a perception of fairness, you must:

  • Pay competitive wages.
  • Create and administer policies that are unbiased and just.
  • Offer competitive benefits.
  • Provide timely, accurate and useful performance appraisals.
  • Promote the most qualified employees.
  • Develop employees and offer opportunities for growth.

Trust. To nurture loyalty and commitment, you must create an environment of trust. Employees must trust their employer and their coworkers. Employers must trust their employees. In large organizations, departments and management levels must put aside territorial concerns and trust each other. To develop and maintain trust, you must:

  • Do what you say you will do.
  • Be consistent.
  • Maintain confidences.
  • Be a role model of the behavior you want others to display.
  • Encourage employee involvement.
  • Allow people to make decisions that affect their work.
  • Allow people to make mistakes without fear of ridicule or abuse.
  • Avoid killing the messengers of bad news.
  • Learn from mistakes and not crucify scapegoats.
  • Explain reasons for major business decisions.
  • Respond and act on employee suggestions.

Care and concern for employees. This is where the Platinum Rule applies. Treat your employees the way they want you to treat them. Show concern for them as people. To show care and concern for your employees, you must:

  • Provide job security.
  • Train and develop managers to effectively manage and coach employees.
  • Be flexible to accommodate employee concerns.
  • Be open and honest.
  • Let them have a life outside work.

The Law of Reciprocity, the Platinum Rule, the Law of Perception and the Law of Consistency apply to each of the three drivers of employee commitment and loyalty. You must create an environment of fairness, trust, care and concern by acting consistently in ways that your employees perceive as fair, trusting and caring. Misperceptions, inconsistency or insincerity will undermine your efforts to keep a loyal and committed workforce. 

For a free copy of "21 Drivers of Employee Loyalty and Commitment," fax your letterhead with your name, address, e-mail address and the words "Employee commitment" to (801) 288-9303, or e-mail the information to


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