If there’s one thing I've learned that can sustain professional service firms, it’s having a great team that truly understands their clients over a long period of time. In order to do that, employee loyalty among key people is critical. Clients are people too, and once they build trust with a team, it’s important to keep that going.
Actually building and sustaining employee loyalty though, isn’t easy. It takes lots of hard work to understand what motivates your staff and to keep them engaged. I’m proud to say that while we’ve had our challenges, overall at Reload Media, we’ve been able to keep a great team together. Of our 12 longest serving employees, 11 are still with us today and we’ve also never lost a team leader or department manager. Even though we know we’ve still got a long way to go, particularly as we are in a rapidly-changing industry, along the way we’ve learnt a lot about employee loyalty. In a service firm like ours, employee loyalty is an ongoing focus and we’re always trying to take it that one step further.
The first thing is having honesty and openness in communication. Our approach is to be as open as possible with our staff, from the top down. Our management team have full visibility on the financials of the business for example, and we put out company-wide announcements whenever possible on things happening in the business. There are some things that obviously can’t be made public, but we do our best to communicate as much as we can.
As a director of the company, I also undertake one-on-one “coffee catchups” with every employee in the business at least once every six months. It’s become part of my routine now, and it gives employees the chance to ask questions or raise issues they might have. Most of the time, it’s not necessarily that you’re being deliberately “closed” about something, it’s just that in the busy cycle of running a business, finding the time to be open is actually the challenge.
The second part of this is to back up your words with actions. If you say you’re going to do something in a certain time frame, do it. Nothing erodes staff motivation and employee loyalty faster than broken promises. I remember vividly apologizing to one staff member once about not hitting a deadline I’d promised to meet, to which that employee replied “I wasn’t worried; you’ve delivered on everything you’ve ever promised me, so I knew it would come through soon.” The effort you put into constantly delivering on promises allows that sort of trust to develop.
And finally, I believe employee loyalty is inherently tied to your organization's culture. Many companies make the mistake of thinking that employee loyalty is about keeping every staff member forever. In my opinion, it’s about working out what your culture is all about, defining that clearly, and working hard to ensure that those who align with it are recognized and engaged for the long term.
Here at Reload, we’ve spent considerable time over the last 12 months defining what our culture is all about, and what traits that make up a Reloader. Even in a high-growth business such as ours, we won’t always have room to promote and keep everyone, so we also set goals around ensuring that Reloaders are successful wherever they go in their careers. If we do that, our employee loyalty extends well past the point when someone is actually working for us. When those ex-employees end up in high positions at other companies, we want them to be advocates of Reload, which will hopefully lead to more clients and business partners for us in the future.
Craig Somerville, 25, is the director of Reload Business Group, an Australian-based company that services more than 500 clients across the globe through its Australia, New Zealand and UK subsidiaries. This includes Australian digital marketing agency and BRW Fast 100 winner, Reload Media, whose staff possesses has an average age of just 26 years old. Somerville is also the inaugural chairman of the Australian Institute of Management’s “Young Manager Advisory Board,” which is tasked with advising Australia’s leading management body on the issues of Gen Y in the workplace and promoting Gen Y management success.