Hopefully by now you’re convinced that employee engagement and loyalty is profitable and important. Employees that buy into their roles bring in more revenue and cost less than their disgruntled counterparts.
(If you need further convincing, or you just want to hear it from a different source, check out this 2016 employee engagement and loyalty stats page. That has 100+ data points on engagement, employee benefits, workplace satisfaction, and more.)
So yeah, we can all agree that employee loyalty is great for business.
But is it great for the employee?
It’s up to the company, and managers especially, to make sure loyalty is a two-way street that rewards employee interests as well as the company’s.
Let’s be honest: loyalty to an employer isn’t always in the employee’s best interest.
One of the definitions of loyalty is staying with something even when it goes against your self-interests.
Some studies have shown that employees earn a 10-20% raise on average when taking a new job.
Meanwhile the typical in-house raise is somewhere around 3-4%. Once you factor in inflation and increased cost of living, that’s more like a 2% raise.
If salary is singled out, what’s keeping employees from constant job hopping?
Further, as an employee ages and compensation increases, there is a common fear of sticking out too much. These employees become prime targets for reduction when belts tighten.
Another concern for loyal employees is good work is often punished.
Many companies have a tendency to abuse loyal employees by asking them to do more than their peers. Think of your high school group project, when one or two students do all the work while the rest of the group relaxes.
In other words, employees can do well by seeking greener pastures.
True or not, they’ll convince themselves there’s more money to be had, better employee benefits, a more appreciative culture, and less risk.
It’s up to you to displace those fears with a culture of appreciation, growth, and transparency.
How can you make employee loyalty just as great for the employee as it is for the business?
Like any aspect of corporate culture, the desire to seek and reward employee loyalty must come from the top. If top executives don’t care about engendering long-term loyalty, neither will managers. If managers don’t care, then you’re heading for high turnover and a lot of money wasted on churn.
Managers, more than money, employee perks, peers, any other factor, are the main influence on why people leave. They have to know that building and sustaining great employees is a top priority.
They need to know how to make life easier for the people that make them look good, in other words.
Here are a few more ideas any company can use to make sure employee loyalty is as valuable for the employee as it is for the company:
- Follow the Career Path (Or Get Creative)
Don’t allow an employee to toil in one position just because they’re good at it, (unless that’s what they really want). Give them the chance to grow and advance, and the skills to do so.
In some situations there may not be a natural promotion, or a well-entrenched boss is above the employee. In those situations, explore alternatives – perhaps more responsibility within their position, or the opportunity to explore tangential practices.
Regardless, every loyal employee should be rewarded with opportunities to expand skills and responsibilities.
- Allow a Focus on Expertise
Loyal employees struggle to say no. They’re bought in and invested in the company, and they’re always wanting to impress. But constantly asking them to do more, and letting them take on added responsibilities, will turn them into the kid in the group project that does all the work while the others play.
That’s a path to burnout. Allow employees to focus on their expertise and projects that are best handled with that expertise. Everything else should be delegated.
- Don’t Turn Them Into Teacher’s Pets
Recognize and honor your loyal employees, but don’t go overboard with it. Loyalty should be rewarded but not lavished upon, otherwise it can breed resentment among peers.
- Frequently Reevaluate Goals and Rewards
Sometimes loyalty can be mistaken for complacency. An employee in a cush job with few responsibilities will naturally stick around as long as they’re allowed.
Comfort is required to engender loyalty among most employees, but it’s important that they always have a goal to push for. And with every goal comes a need for measures and eventual rewards.
- Go Beyond Vacation
Companies use benefits as carrots for longevity. Some won’t allow enrollment until 90 days have passed. Others won’t expand PTO allotments until work anniversaries. Which is good, but eventually the vacation becomes counter-productive.
The employee with ten years of service – what will she do with 10 weeks of vacation? Not use most of it, most likely.
Explore other loyalty benefits. Perhaps employees over a certain threshold don’t have PTO restrictions at all. Some companies float out a big corporate perk for long-term employment, such as child tuition or a paid sabbatical.
The Golden Watch era is over, but employee loyalty should still be rewarded.
Why are Millennial views of corporate loyalty so different? It’s complicated, but it boils down to what they’ve seen with their own eyes. Layoffs, CEOs who make 300% more than the average employee, financial misdeeds.
Meanwhile, their business icons are people who broke away from the traditional corporate world – Elon Musk, Zuckerberg, even Jay-Z.
The employee pension is gone. So is the golden watch ceremony. But employee loyalty is still alive.
It just has to be earned every day. It starts with managers people want to work for, and a company that values and rewards employees who show up and do great work for years.
We all want loyalty from employees; now we need to be sure we show it back to them.