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Customers abandon companies they do not trust and so do employees. Trust develops over time and can be dashed in an instant. But improving organizational trust is more difficult and subtler than installing new software. Research conducted by Leonard Berry, author of Discovering the Soul of Service, and professor at Texas A&M concluded that successful companies tend to act like extended families. They display these family traits in five ways:
Family Gatherings: These are events designed to share, console, help, celebrate and communicate. Enterprise Rent-a-Car and Midwest Express Airlines routinely hold all-hands meetings to answer employee questions, give awards, and keep everyone up to date. Its rather like the long forgotten family councils, the circle of the tribal elders. Information is freely given and encouraged. Sessions like Stump the CEO are held with prizes given to employees who ask the most difficult questions. One advertising agency holds HELP! sessions that can be called whenever a team member needs advice and ideas. The stand-up-and-talk gathering is spur-of-the-moment, brings all hands around, and is over in less than 15 minutes. And the family member who asked for HELP! walks away with new ideas and insights.
Family Familiarity: Leaders are accessible, approachable, and caring. First name-basis becomes the order of the day. Amazon.com mirrors this on their web site that literally calls a customer by name and outlines suggested purchases based upon the customers buying history. How might you move beyond a web connection to create a higher form of conversation?
Family Honor: Management trusts employees. Time clocks are rare; remote work common. At Miller SQA, a division of Herman Miller, factory employees keep their own hours on the honor system. At AES, a utility organization, cross-training is so prevalent that employees trust each other to perform a task when called upon.
Family Fairness: Pay for performance, evenhandedness, promotions from within and merit-based rewards. An example is Custom Research. This company won a Malcolm Baldridge Award. Only 50 employees could attend a celebration in Florida. The organizationfrom the president down to the clericaldrew names to see who could attend.
Family Fun: Humor is the shortest distance between people. Families play together. At SW Airlines, they have ice cream parties on the spur of the moment. Malaysian Airlines offers dance and music concerts staffed by employees talent. The options are endless. Customers are also included in the fun.
The trust test is passed or failed on a daily basis. Retaining employees and customers are more likely if retention becomes a family affair.
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