Workplace Loyalty: A New Paradigm

August 3, 2017

Once there was a time when companies provided their employees with the security of lifetime employment. There was also a time when employees remained on the job despite opportunities to go elsewhere.

That relational dynamic has certainly changed as many employers moved towards outsourcing, automation, and—for all too many—a focus on increasing shareholder value over employee engagement and customer satisfaction. Many employers are no longer loyal to their workforce so it should come as little surprise that employees are not loyal to their companies.

It’s time for a new paradigm with regard to workplace loyalty. This is one where both employee and employer do their part to encourage greater loyalty. Employees should first and foremost be loyal to themselves, and employers should recognize that company loyalty can and should remain long after an employee leaves.

“Loyalty to self and company need not be either bound by employment or mutually exclusive,” writes Lee Caraher, author of The Boomerang Principle: Inspire Lifetime Loyalty from Your Employees. “Loyalty is a two-way street, and unless a company can prove to employees that it deserves their loyalty, it isn’t coming. Frankly, the business world has taught us all that we need to be loyal to ourselves first if we don’t want to be caught on the wrong side of a downsizing.”

This reminds me of the flight attendant’s advice before take-off: “Be sure to place your own oxygen mask on before assisting others.” To be your best self for others, you must first be your best self for yourself. And to truly love another person, you must first love yourself.

An example of this loyalty to self in the workplace can be simply recognizing when you are no longer fully engaged in your work and doing something about it. Options may include: 1) Determine and act upon what is within your power to change in order to become more engaged; 2) Have a discussion with your supervisor to determine what he or she can do to enable your higher engagement; 3) Seek other opportunities inside or outside the company where you can bring your best self to be fully engaged.

This self-loyalty has to do with being accountable for your part in the lower engagement you may be experiencing, and doing what is necessary in order to raise it. You are much more likely to be loyal to your company if you feel engaged in your work, and you can impact this.

At the same time, employers need to recognize that employee loyalty must be earned rather than assumed. Employers need to encourage workers by doing what they can to enable their full engagement.

And Caraher says employers need to let go of the old workplace loyalty notion and replace it with a mindset that employees can be loyal throughout their lives, whether they continue to be employed at the company or not.

The idea is that even ex-employees can be important ambassadors for your company and become partners, clients, customers, and referrals for all of those as well as potential new employees. Perhaps most importantly, if your former employees feel they were treated well while employed at your company and especially during their exit from it, they may very well end up coming back to work there again.

As the notion of workplace loyalty continues to evolve, it’s important that both employees and employers do their part to make it work. Loyalty should not be assumed or taken for granted, and it requires effort on both parties to continue.

Thoughts on Low Job Satisfaction

January 6, 2010

If less than half of those lucky to be employed today are happy with their jobs, what does this say about the state of the American worker? According to Tuesday’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer article, employee dissatisfaction has been on the rise for more than a generation and is due not only to wages failing to keep up with inflation and the rising cost of health care, but the fact that “fewer workers consider their jobs to be interesting.”

Does it matter that employees find their jobs interesting? Well, I contend this is extremely important because interest in the work can determine just how competitive we are as a country in the world economy.

“The downward trend in job satisfaction could spell trouble for the overall engagement of U.S. employees and ultimately employee productivity,” says Lynn Franco, director of the Consumer Research Center of The Conference Board. Their research, based on a survey with 5,000 U.S. households, goes on to report that a full 22 percent of respondents say they don’t expect to be in their current job in the next year.

According to The Conference Board report, “The growing dissatisfaction across and between generations is important to address because it can directly impact the quality of multi-generational knowledge transfer—which is increasingly critical to effective workplace functioning.”

If this low rate of job satisfaction results in stifled innovation, lower productivity, and reduced multi-generational knowledge transfer, we’ve got some serious problems in the workplace. So what can be done?

It seems to me that better understanding the root of the problem is essential. For instance, this apparent downward trend has continued for the last two decades and throughout our boom and bust economic cycles. The current down economy is therefore not the heart of the problem. Though I am not an economist, I don’t believe simply adding more service type jobs to replace outsourced manufacturing jobs will resolve things.

We need to leverage good old American ingenuity as well as our technical expertise and creativity to create sustainable market opportunities for new goods and services. We also need something that will ignite workers in every sector of the economy to contribute their best in order to meet the many challenges of the 21st century. With increasing terrorism, global warming, greater energy demands and other big challenges, there is no shortage of opportunities available. Government and business needs to work cooperatively to fully ignite our country again in the same way we did during World War II and for the moon shot of the last century.

No matter what market opportunities may become available to create new and better jobs, we also need to find ways to increase employee engagement and strengthen trust and respect in employer-employee relationships. And this is something that can begin immediately. The worker who feels he or she is truly the organization’s most important asset is a more satisfied worker—regardless of the job. Organizations that invest in their employees today will remain competitive in the future.

A meaningful investment in your employees will help bring about increased job satisfaction. Whether this means better aligning resources with tasks, providing greater guidance and support, strengthening general communication, or results-based team building activities, your investment can reap bottom-line business results immediately.

Mark Craemer