What is Your Employee Loyalty Program?

I continue to fly United more than I would like since they abandoned their Cleveland hub. The reason is simple. My gold status gives me advantages I don’t have on other airlines. If the convenience is similar, I’ll take United every time. Yes, even after a doctor was beaten and forceably removed from a plane and a child had to sit on his mother’s lap for hours. They treat me well in person, and on the premier phone number I use.

You probably have status with airlines and hotel chains, and enjoy similar perks. Your business may have some kind of customer loyalty program too. If you do, I hope it’s founded on relationship and not on price. It’s a mistake to encourage customers to value lower prices over top shelf service.

As familiar as we all are with customer loyalty programs, there are very few employee loyalty programs. The gold watch at 25 years is a joke. Longevity-based raises encourage a focus on money rather than opportunity, meaning, and enjoyment. Does a manager serving you a hamburger really earn your loyalty? Nice is different from loyalty building.

As Industry 4.0 enters our lives, and it is doing so now, we need to hire reliable learners, develop them, and keep them. Technology is changing so quickly that someone who wants to learn and is comfortable with math is valuable long term. We want our best learners to be loyal to us.

In most manufacturers, the majority of employees work in operations, be that engineering, production, warehousing, supply chain or other. As we fret about skills shortages and turnover, it’s time to quit doing what we’ve always done. Annual reviews, 3 percent raises and gas cards for a good idea doesn’t cut it.

Your assignment for this week, should you choose to accept it Secret Agent style:

  • Examine your hiring, developing and retention processes for ensuring willingness and ability to learn, provision of opportunity, meaning and enjoyment, and commitment to earning the loyalty of your employees.

Most of you will detect weaknesses. No one can afford “warm body” thinking.

Next week?

  • Examine your supplier and community loyalty programs.  What are you doing to ensure the relationships are mutually beneficial, and that when times are tough you can count on each other?

In any relationship, taking the other party for granted contributes to failure. Doing just the minimum may keep them until something better comes along. Keeping commitments is entry-level. I continue to be loyal to United because of benefits and convenience, and for no other reason. How many of your employees and suppliers are apparently loyal, but just waiting for a chance to move to someone better? If you want to keep them, act like it.

As published in AME’s Target Online