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Best Employee Satisfaction at Best Retail Employers Get the Best Results

Analysis of the U.S. Retailers on the 2010 Fortune "Best Companies to Work For"

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One more retail company that helps make the case for the value of employee satisfaction is Wal-Mart (WMT). The world's largest retailer has a reputation for having some of the worst employee relationships in the retail industry. Compared to the impressive retail stock gains listed above, Wal-Mart's stock fell 4.5% in 2009. Granted, Wal-Mart was the Wall Street darling of the retail industry for most of the recession so its stock prices never took a huge recessionary plunge.

Nevertheless, shareholders weren't in love with the company's performance throughout 2009, and certainly there is a notable number of Wal-Mart employees who are not in love with their employer. Although there are no specific studies which link Wal-Mart's employee lawsuits, unionization efforts, and disparaging employee-generated websites to its diminished stock performance, it seems illogical to assume that the two things are completely unrelated.

According to Gallup, those world famous research and survey people, engaged employees have higher job satisfaction, take fewer sick days, use less health care, are more productive, stay at work longer, and create stronger customer relationships. If retail employers didn't realize it before, they certainly realize now that this is exactly the kind of employees that are essential in times of crisis. Unfortunately if you didn't cultivate workplace engagement before a crisis occurs, it's going to be difficult or impossible to conjure it up in mid-trauma. Engagement is not a just-add-water proposition.

Most employers that I've consulted with want the benefits of an engaged workforce without having to expend any effort toward creating an engaged workplace. They seem to think that a paycheck alone should buy them the highest level of engagement from the people who are receiving those paychecks. Perhaps it should, but it doesn't.

A paycheck gives people a reason to show up and complete tasks, but it doesn't give the average employee a reason to be satisfied while they're completing those tasks. And a paycheck alone certainly is not enough to motivate most people to get emotionally involved in the success of their employer. It is that high level of emotional commitment that has allowed the retail "Best Companies to Work For" stalwarts to move through the recession without much long-term collateral damage.

When analysts look at the 2010 "Best Retail Companies to Work for List" they see value. When customers look at the list they see a satisfying shopping experience. When employees look at the list they see creativity and energy and potential. When I look at the list I see organizations that have the integrity to care about being the best versions of retailing that they can possibly be.

Hopefully when other retail leaders look at the list, they will see the future.

See the complete list of 2010 Best Retail Companies to Work For
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