How to keep your staff switched on

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 June, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 June, 1997, 12:00am

Many consultancies are dispensing advice on how business performance can be improved by ensuring employees are satisfied in their work.

However, there is a gradual realisation that employee satisfaction does not always achieve the results that it promises.

As Keith Wells, a director with the Dragon consultancy, says: 'The reason is that satisfaction does not equate to commitment.' In other words, employees showing a high level of satisfaction in surveys still tend to resign because they have not 'bought into' their organisations in much the same way that satisfied customers will shop elsewhere because they have not been made totally loyal to a company.

However, Dragon, which specialises in corporate reputations, believes it can measure commitment in order to reach appropriate decisions in areas such as communications and training.

At the heart of the employee commitment model developed in association with Taylor Nelson AGB and Surveys of South Africa is a technique developed by Jan Hofmeyr, professor of religious studies in Cape Town.

He used it to examine what makes individuals convert from one religion to another but it has been extended to political polling and to guiding strategies for retaining customers of branded goods and services.

Dragon feels the methodology can also be applied to employee loyalty because it segments audiences according to their level of commitment to a religion, political party or product.

This therefore proves that satisfaction alone is not the only significant measure.

The consultancy, whose clients include 3M, Barclays Bank, Scottish Power and Sainsbury's, the British supermarket chain, sees this area of activity going hand in hand with its work in corporate reputation.

'The idea of employee commitment is both a fundamental component and a result of good corporation reputation,' says Mr Wells.

Consequently, the organisation reckons the employee commitment model fits in with the principles developed under the name of another Dragon trademark, reputation power.

Essentially, this amounts to measuring principles designed to produce differentiating factors and standards and to recognise the need for consistency and applicability across a range of interest groups.

As far as Mr Wells is concerned, building a corporate reputation depends on addressing similar concerns for both external and internal audiences. As a result, employees will seek answers to questions such as: who are we? Where are we going? What's in it for us? The correct answers will create a sense of involvement and an inclination to give the organisation the benefit of the doubt, both of which add up to a commitment to the business.

Mr Wells acknowledges it is the sort of 'soft stuff' that many organisations will feel inclined to suggest that they have a grasp of when they are still some way adrift.

But the key is to be tough with regard to clients' statements, he says, pointing out that, for instance, the word 'integrity' appears in so many mission statements that it cannot be taken at face value.

Dragon has many examples of companies that are seeking to build corporate reputations by presenting themselves in a positive light along the lines of Glaxo Wellcome's claim that it is fighting disease rather than selling medicines.

But what all this comes down to, stresses Mr Wells, is ensuring a fit between personal and corporate values.

'It's breaking it down to 'do I feel good about myself at work'.'