Employee Loyalty Can’t Be Bought

Because compensation is not synonymous with job satisfaction, you can start saving money today by treating employees with respect.

By Stan Ehrlich, Contributing Editor | August 31, 2003
Stan Ehrlich


Like most everything in life, employee loyalty is a two-way street. For employees, the notion that they can work for one company for their entire lives is dead. I venture to say that employees believe their jobs will be on the line when money gets tight or salaries get too high. And getting rehired after a layoff, especially in a slow economy, is no longer the slam-dunk it once was.

Similarly, ask employers about employee loyalty, and even 40- and 50-year-olds launch into essays about the "good old days." They’re apt to speak about hard work, dedication and grit, all of which occurred before employees started to follow the "eight and skate" rule.

While I don’t know the percentages, many builders think it doesn’t matter how much employees are paid because they always think of themselves first. Further, these builders believe it’s the rare employee who really cares about the company first. Conversely, there are builders who believe that loyalty, devotion and esprit de corps can be bought, paid for with bonuses, higher hourly wages, company vehicles, et al. The reality lies somewhere in between.

Builders who are good managers realize that labor is not just another commodity to be treated the same way you quantify lumber or calculate land costs. They also know that employees want more than just money before returning loyalty and improved performance. Employees want respect, and if you think higher salaries are the answer, you can start saving money today.

Enough surveys have revealed that compensation is not synonymous with job satisfaction. Don’t you have friends earning six-figure salaries who hate their jobs? Do you really believe that your highly compensated employees think differently about you?

When was the last time you stopped by a job site with coffee and doughnuts, sat down with your employees and asked for their opinions about a company matter relating to something other than when the window order was being delivered? When was the last time you hired an employee after he or she worked with one of your crews on a probationary basis and you let the crew determine whether that individual was worthy of hire? When was the last time you had your employees, on company time, stop back at the office to hear a rep discuss how to refinance a mortgage? Or how to buy life insurance? Or plan for college for their children? Or how to pay off credit card debt? And when was the last time you prepared a written summary telling your employees about jobs in progress, jobs pending, jobs bid, et al., so they could know where the company was headed?

I’m fully aware that money talks, and it’s hard for employees to embrace your com-pany when they don’t earn sufficient income to support a family. But perhaps those bonuses you hand out at the end of the year should be given more frequently (and in smaller amounts), after each successful job or after particularly difficult jobs.

When employees hear the boss tell them how tough life is while he’s leaning on the hood of his new truck or standing in the newly framed addition to his house, the words fall on deaf ears. In fact, it turns your employees into those people you complain about daily. You know that line "Damn, can’t anyone get good help anymore?" Did you ever think that your employees are saying something similar about you?


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