employee satisfaction / employee loyalty

Following on from writing about happiness at work (or the lack thereof), I was interested in a journal article by Kurt Matzler and Birgit Renzl in Total Quality Management (Vol 17, No. 10, 1261-1271, Dec 2006) entitled ‘The Relationship between Interpersonal Trust, Employee Satisfaction, and Employee Loyalty’.

Matzler and Renzl comment that employee satisfaction is considered to be one of the most important drivers of quality, customer satisfaction and productivity. Seems reasonable – a dissatisfied employee can effortlessly undermine quality, destroy customer satisfaction, and all while causing productivity levels to plummet. Most businesses carefully build an image with substantial investment in advertising and staff training, but few look beyond the superficial in terms of building the staff. No one I asked today had ever been asked by their employers something simple like ‘do you like working here?’ or ‘how can we do this better?’.

Matzler and Renzl argue that interpersonal trust (trust in management and trust in peers) is a strong driver of employee satisfaction, that it influences employee satisfaction, and as a consequence, employee loyalty. Their research confirmed a strong link between trust, employee satisfaction, and employee loyalty.

So, interpersonal trust. But how can it be built? I can recall attending one of those ghastly ‘team building’ weekends where we were supposed to do the fall backwards and trust the team to catch you. The CEO was watching a fly go by and dropped me. Sure, I learned to trust them – as in, I KNOW I can’t trust them…

Matzler and Renzl offer four ‘trust builders’ to promote interpersonal trust. First, trust can be fostered when managers and peers show trustworthy behaviours – they identify acting with discretion, consistency between word and deed, ensuring rich and frequent communication, engaging in collaborative communication, and ensuring decisions are fair and transparent.

Secondly, on an organisational level, hold people accountable for trust, and a shared vision and language.

Thirdly, on a relational level, creating personal connections and giving away something of value – eg willing to offer others one’s own network of contacts when appropriate. And finally, on an individual level, the disclosure of expertise and one’s own limitations increase trust. They also note knowledge sharing is an important driver of workplace trust.

It all seems reasonable. Could we build a team based on mutual trust – and if we did, would our team feel more satisfied? Happier? Be worth a try…

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