Covid-19 and Keeping Staff Loyalty

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I have been having absolute fun listening and dancing to Bruno Mars 2010 song, “Grenade.” Thanks to my daughter. Seven artists including Bruno, collaborated to write that song. A brilliant piece, with an even more instructive video. Somehow, the lyrics of the song and the imageries in the video resonated deeply the message of workplace loyalty – You can’t miss the old retired homeless men in the video. With a rope tied to his piano and Bruno pulling it through town – up the hill, through traffic lights, train stations, down the slopes, etc – yet it did not end well. Trust was broken –– “Easy come, easy go, that’s just how you live. Take, take, take it all, but you never give. Should have known you was trouble from the first kiss… Gave you all I had and you tossed it in the trash.. To give me all your love is all I ever ask. ‘Cause what you don’t understand is. I’d catch a grenade for ya. Throw my hand on a blade for ya. I’d jump in front of a train for ya. You know I’d do anything for ya. I would go through all this pain. Take a bullet straight through my brain. Yes, I would die for ya, baby. But you won’t do the same. No.”

I agree with Bruno – Relationships should be balanced; reciprocal. Employers and employees should always think win win. Win-win is a paradigm that always pursues shared benefits and accommodation. In Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, the number 4 habit is “think win-win.” Covey argued that other relationship paradigms like – Win; Win/Lose; Lose/Win; Lose/Lose; are dysfunctional, ineffective and ultimately counterproductive. Thinking win-win requires a level of deliberate investment and commitment, because it thrives on synergy and joint advantage.

The first step is to recognise what the status of our relationship is at a given time. We must not take anything for granted, operating on assumptions. It is essential we not only ask ourselves what we want, but also what the other party wants from us in a given situation, or at a given time. Keep in mind that it’s acceptable to walk away, if a common agreement is not found. It is a work relationship – If the case is that you are an asset and not a liability and a mutually beneficial situation can’t be reached, then both parties can “agree to disagree” and both can walk away with no hard feelings. This is a typically realistic option in any enterprise. Nevertheless, there’s something noble about maintaining fidelity in a world where bonds seem to be easily broken. Fidelity means continual loyalty often evidenced by reliability, trustworthiness, and ongoing support even when a severance is unavoidable.

An age-old business model and a tested formula for success – is for a smart a entrepreneur to surround himself with a few people, smarter and stronger than himself, but infinitely and unflinchingly loyal to him. Earning loyalty is a great leadership trait, as staff loyalty increasingly becomes difficult to earn and keep. Loyalty is expected from every employee, and it is a major ingredient for a business to succeed. In the workplace, loyalty is constantly being tested. Your people will either ensure you survive and thrive, or stagnate and die. Remember the phrase, “with friends like you, who needs enemies? – often used to suggest that a partner, coworker, friend or ally is acting against your best interests. Staff loyalty is certainly a question for law firm leaders to appreciate and drive within their law firms, in order to thrive in today’s challenging and competitive environment.

So, Mr. Lawyer Leader, do you want to pause a bit and take a breather? Take out your stethoscope and take the pulse of the loyalty of the people around you – simply determine their heart rate by feeling and timing the rhythm of a vein. Yes, “arrête, prends le pouls” – pardon my French, but “stop, take the pulse” and read the meter correctly. Are your people with you because they are stuck with you and have no other alternative? And the minute a new suitor shows up and woos them, dangling some juicy carrot, with the right words, they are gone? How do you make your law firm to remain a dominant firm of choice, in the face of increased competition? Keeping Staff loyalty may require consistent focus and commitment to a number of best practices, strategic principles and practical tactics and insights. In developing a sustainable employee/employer working relationship, please let us consider both a long view and a wide lens on models that engenders and strengthens loyalty, not diminish it. Loyalty can be fragile – it requires careful cultivation. Agreed, in a business relationship, there is a heightened focus on cold and unromantic factors like productivity, efficiency, performance evaluation, cost savings, service delivery, pricing, innovation, etc. – while trying to do all these, ensure to understand and deliver on a true value proposition for all stakeholders; your people primarily – Make sure that you are building enduring relationships (with your people, your clients and prospects). Loyalty is key to your success, especially that of your people.

When a marriage couple take their vows before a licensed official, priest, imam, justices of the peace, marriage registrars, etc. – I often wonder in what unique ways their loyalties would be tested. What will upend their devotion to the union? What north wind will rock the boat? This piece focuses on two core segments knotted together: The Loyalty Framework – a look at how to build firm loyalists; The Humane Framework – approaches to improve staff work experience.

Invest In Your Talent

To reduce unwanted turnover and prompt staff to give you their best, show them they are talents and that you are genuinely interested in developing their talent. You recruited them, right? So, you will have to invest not only in the cultivation of their capabilities, but also in the provision of the resources and infrastructure to allow them to succeed. Staff, on the other hand, should show themselves worthy of such investment of trust – produce in multiples the return on investment – be a solution provider – be more creative at responding to change and coming up with new solutions. Also, employers have a tendency of having a nearsighted view on their people. It will assist employers to stay discerning through deeper understanding of staff needs, enabling them to build a trusted partnership – based on mutual respect. It should not be a competitor that makes you discover you had diamonds in the rough, after they are gone. Employers have to recognise and address the changing needs of staff over time as they grow with the organisation, provide platforms to help them get the resources they require as they grow and make the connections they need – and you will be building an army of loyalists.

Reward Equitably

One of the loyalty killers I know, is continually rewarding undeserving people – unequitable rewards. Employers will do well to take a project management approach to rewards – synchronise output to reward. Focus on your high performers. Life is not fair, it is not a circus – You cannot treat everyone the same way. Even the Holy Book says so – parable of the Talent. The worker with more talents got more, and those with less talents got less. And, the one with no talent got none. Do More For Your Best People and They Will Do More For You. Make a point of talking with your best people, to find out what they really want or need – whether it’s a special deal or a small accommodation. Do not assume you know what they need. That is design thinking. If you can fulfil a unique need or want, you will be doing something especially valuable – such that when you need extra leverage with a particular employee – when you need him or her to really go the extra mile – you as an employer, will have more than enough credits to pull from. I remember chatting with a Lawyer, who told me why he would never leave his present employer. The employer had taken it upon himself to personally queue, pursue and obtain the admission of his children into a highly exclusive school that he had mentioned in passing that he had always desired his children to attend. Most high-performers leave a job, because they conclude that they will not be able to get what they need and want in that job. So they go in search of some place or someone who will make their aspirations become reality. When an employer goes out of his way to figure out what his best people really need and help them earn what they need and want, you turn the primary reason why they might leave into the primary reason why they will stay and work extra hard.

Lithe Work Arrangements Build Loyalty

The form and style of work has taken on several variants. Tough times can test even the strongest organisations, and being lithe has become an essential virtue as firms reevaluate goals and performance metrics. Even strategic planning cannot afford to be too rigid or bureaucratic, in this fast changing environment we find ourselves. With Covid-19, 9-to-5 is falling by the wayside. Some smart employers will be looking to holding on to top talent who would otherwise resign, by offering alternative work arrangements. Employers who insist on conventional full-time employment may lose out on some good talents. Focus is shifting to the endpoint – excellent work output; meeting project targets efficiently and effectively.

Have Fun With Your Team

Having fun with your people increases Loyalty – invest in it. People are not rational beings, they are emotional beings. Joy and laughter is a stimulant – it releases dopamine and serotonin in our bodies, which is linked with productivity. How you make people feel is a memory that lasts, hence it can affect their loyalty to the organisation.

Have Values and be True to Them

Have Values and be true to them – if it is integrity and transparency – model it in front of your employees. Pressures or a desire to avoid conflict, may lead employers to sometimes compromise on integrity. Employees are watching, and they pick up on this quickly. They may assume that it is okay to be dishonest too, on crucial matters. Truthfulness creates respect, and frees employees to do right even in employer’s absence. Transparency certainly breeds loyalty. For instance, I always find it admirable that I can sit in my study at home and google the 2020 Profit Per Equity Partner (‘PPEP’) of a Law firm like Wachtell, in New York, or Allen & Overy in London, etc.

As an Employer be the First to take Responsibility for Errors

You earn loyalty that way. Passing the buck when things go wrong, deflates trust. Employers who admit mistakes, set an example for staff. It shows strength of character, to take responsibility during crisis. That’s what employers want employees to do. So, they would have to model it, clearly and consistently.