Return On Morale
I spend a lot of time observing the effect that morale – high, low, or indifferent – has on a business’s success. Why the near-obsession? When people love their organization, they go to extraordinary lengths to ensure its continued success. When things are already going well, they push that success to new heights; when the org they love is in trouble, they stick by it and protect it as loyal teammates should. How employees feel about a company will, over the long haul, make all the difference. This is why culture is so vitally important, and why the leadership that sets that culture is so crucial.
It’s hard to find a leader who will not tell you his organization already has high morale – this lack of perspective is something I’ve posted on before (including one of my all-time top posts here). So I don’t spend a lot of time asking leaders how their people feel about their company. I observe their people in action. Do they love their company? If so, they’ll brag about it, just as a matter of course when they think no one’s judging. They’ll think up ways of helping their company when they’re at home, at lunch, or on vacation. They’ll recommend it to their friends, and try to get their most talented friends to join the firm when employment opportunities arise.
Find me a new hire a few months out of college who won’t wear a company t-shirt with pride, and I’ll show you a company that has serious problems. Big deal! Show me someone who brags about his favorite employer years afterleaving, I’ll show you a firm whose stock you should invest in for the long haul.
One of many extraordinary things Harley Davidson did to revive their brand and turn it into the icon it is today is, they tapped their alumni base for customer relations help. Who better to help customers than old Harley employees, the folks who dedicated years of their lives to the company, built and sold the machines, saved up to buy one of their own, and ride them still? Surely that’s a better choice for customer support than a new-hire who can barely remember the name of half the products, wouldn’t you say?
“Their alumni?” Did I lose you way back there? Yes, their alumni. Schools aren’t the only organizations who can claim to have alumni.
If your company has been around even a few years, you have alumni, too: people who used to work there, and who no longer do. What are your alumni saying about your firm?
This is the Social Era of business. It is an era in which you must assume that any recruit you talk to is going to reach out to your past employees on LinkedIn, Twitter, FaceBook, Google+, and a whole host of other media to get the inside scoop on your firm. You can’t stop them; you can’t even slow them down. It is so easy for your recruits to find the right people and converse with them, you’d be foolish to assume they aren’t all doing it! (Hell, do you even want to employ someone lame enough not to check up on you in this way?)
The age of top-down organizational spin control is over. The members of your community control your message now. What are they saying about working for you?
Here’s a dose of apostasy that is likely to make me unpopular among some circles where I’m already counted a leader: Social media itself is no big deal. It’s our era’s email or telephone. Everyone’s already using it at some level of proficiency, and in just a few more years, the idea of a social media “expert” will be as silly as an email expert (can you imagine?) The medium isn’t the story. What people are able to do with that medium…! That is what remains newsworthy, and will for at least five more years, I’ll wager.
Be good to your future alumni. Not just because it’s the right thing to do – it is, but so what? Be good to your people because the’re talking about you right now, and they’re going to keep talking about you for years to come. Morale pays. I can’t stress that passionately enough. Morale is the heart and soul of your company’s success, or failure. Learn this, and live it.
Your brand depends on it.