Earning employee loyalty
Companies face challenges as younger workers have different priorities than past generations
O you have someone that you would call a good friend? A loyal friend? How would you describe this friendship? I am sure you’d tell me that your friend would stand by you no matter what happens. They would listen when you feel sad, they would laugh at your corny jokes and they would celebrate when you’ve succeeded in meeting your goals. Finally, that friend would quickly volunteer their time and effort when you needed support for your special causes. In other words, you could count on that friend.
So, how would you describe a good employee? A loyal employee? Is this someone who has been with you for multiple years and trudges through their daily work? Is this someone who has a lot of expertise but rarely shares it for the benefit of their team? Or, is it someone who has energy and spark, that keener who dives into their work and looks for more?
Is this person the one who always volunteers for special projects while still getting their main work done on time and with quality? Finally, is a loyal employee someone who understands your mission and will put all their efforts into contributing their best to ensuring corporate success?
In my mind, employee loyalty and employee engagement are closely tied. These individuals understand their value to an organization and put their all into their work.
Yet, the challenge today is how to create this type of commitment from younger employees. This challenge was recently identified in a study that showed loyalty from millennial employees was closely tied to how an organization’s business priorities were tied to individual personal priorities. For instance, if a corporation was seen to focus solely on profitability, it would not inspire loyalty from millennials.
Participants in a Deloitte study from earlier this year suggested that employers were out of step and were not prioritizing any issues that improved society and/or protected the environment. While they recognized businesses exist to make profit and create jobs, 36 per cent of participants said corporations need to pay more attention to developing new ideas and innovations, while 35 per cent indicated that enhancing employee livelihoods should also be given consideration. At the same time, 51 per cent of millennials and 63 per cent of Gen Z stated an interest in financial rewards and benefits and another 52 and 57 per cent, respectively, prioritized the workplace culture as being important to gaining their loyalty.
These survey results were a bit of a surprise to me especially since I know that most corporate leaders have been tracking these type of statistics for some time and there’s been at least a 10-year push on improving employment engagement.
In my mind, as with friendships, employee loyalty is more than just pay and benefits. It’s more about leadership. Leadership that instils confidence in followers, leaders who are role models, leaders who know how to motivate others and leaders who help their employees achieve their own sense of success.
Keeping in mind that employee loyalty comes with time and experience, the following suggestions might help to catch those millennials and
DGen Z employees early and help them stay with your organization. Share your vision — posting a copy of your vision and mission statement in the employee lunchroom simply won’t be enough for employees to know, understand and share your vision. Smaller organizations can have regular meetings while large organizations need to count on management communication. Be sure that the vision is discussed frequently and the individuals see how their work fits in and contributes to organizational success.
Be on top of your game — leaders who stimulate loyalty are role models who are also continuous learners themselves. They stay on top of industry issues and make changes and adjustments in their organization to meet changing needs. They take professional development seriously and engage in personal training and/or executive coaching on an ongoing basis. They appreciate critique and encourage feedback. Leaders who are on top of their game inspire loyalty.
Be a culture builder — leaders who are sensitive to the changing needs of their employees pay attention to the kind of workplace culture needed to attract and retain their employees. They keep their finger on the pulse of their culture and create initiatives that build teamwork among the diversified ages within the workplace. Culture builders seek out the voices of their employees.
Measure satisfaction — leaders who build loyalty know that employee engagement is not a one-time gig but rather requires ongoing focus and attention. Consider using employee surveys to identify potential issues. Ensure that issues are prioritized and dealt with. There is nothing worse than asking for employee opinions and then failing to give feedback and/or doing something to overcome the issues that were brought forward. Management is always on a pedestal as employees watch your every move.
Focus on employee development — training your employees is an investment rather than an expense. Having the opportunity to improve themselves and develop new skills that will enhance job opportunities helps to create employee loyalty. This also creates a focus on building internal capacity, which is often more effective than relying on external resources and external recruitment. Employees see and value your investment and will lend their loyalty to you.
Train for relationships — providing technical training and upgrading is one thing, but helping employees develop the skills to build strong team relationships, communicate effectively and resolve disputes quickly adds powerful skills to your staffing complement. Strong, positive teamwork relationships contribute to a positive and harmonious work environment, which in turn contributes to employee engagement and job satisfaction.
Focus on internal promotions — applying a strategy of promotion from within as the first choice often leads to employee loyalty because they see opportunities to learn, grow and stay with the organization. Also, keep in mind that your employees know the organization the best and that an external candidate may take one to three years to become fully productive.
Policy support — keep your HR policies up-to-date and be sure that employees know when and why a new policy is being implemented. Ensure employees are fully aware of internal complaint mechanisms should there be incidents of harassment and bullying. Review your policies on reward and recognition and apply these on an annual basis.
Organizational loyalty is hard to achieve when the ideals and goals of employees are not aligned with corporate goals. While this is challenging in a work environment where employees range from baby boomers to Gen Z, concentrated efforts must be made to engage employees and to meet their personal needs. Loyalty is earned.
Employee loyalty is usually about more than just pay and benefits; company values and leadership are also big factors.