I've worked in a number of industries-- from political campaigns to state government to tech and more. Each industry provided a unique experience but above all, the most memorable experiences were with those organizations with a great work environment and a culture of loyalty.
I can recall when working at one organization, we'd have all-staff meetings where we celebrated the tenure of staff. What impressed me was the length of tenure -- five, 10 and 15 years or more of employment. It struck me as something unique and special as that staff had such longevity and loyalty to the organization. I wondered how the organization engendered so much loyalty.
It came down to one thing: effective employee engagement. I view employee engagement as effectively managing all dimensions of the employee journey extremely well, which encompasses attraction of talent, recruitment, hiring, development, retention, productivity and loyalty.
In business, one of the most significant and measured metrics is customer loyalty as there is a direct correlation between derived growth from loyal customers and economics. A loyal customer base can help organizations withstand threats by new challengers, can contribute to company growth, innovation, increased revenue and other positive indicators.
In fact, systems were created to capture the strength of customer loyalty. A well-known system is the Net Performer Score (NPS). The NPS gathers insights to measure and manage customer loyalty and that customer loyalty is why people stick by brands in thick or thin.
Surprisingly, it seems as though the world of business doesn't always agree with the concept of loyalty as it relates to their own employees. According to Rick Wartzman, author of The End of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America, there has been an erosion of the social contract between companies and employees since World War II due to forces such as automation, globalization, outsourcing, the decline of unions and the emphasis on maximizing shareholder value at all costs.
I'd argue that the makings of a successful employee engagement strategy now comes down to three elements:
1. Respect powers loyalty.
Employees leave companies all the time and even more so in a bullish market where talent is a sought after commodity. As such, every organization's people function is monitoring their levels of attrition as it represents a direct cost against their company profit and loss margins. Higher than normal attrition leads to brain drain, organizational instability and can further contribute to losses in revenue, customers, and market share.
Loyal employees won't stay forever but they will hang around longer if their employer treats them well. Loyalty is what makes people stay-- not pay, not benefits, not perks. Loyalty is the stickiness in the mix.
2. Empowerment enables trust.
Organizations must have some level of empowerment from the top to encourage innovation. Further, staff members need to trust in the mission that dictates why the organization exists. Above all, organizational loyalty contributes to the overall employee value proposition and its byproducts are a great product and culture.
3. Invest in your people.
Employees want to grow their own careers and are always seeking ways to gain more knowledge. Organizations should embrace a learning and development culture where staff can grow in a role.
Further, companies should utilize such benefits as section 127 of the IRS code which allows for educational assistance up to $5,250 a calendar year. Organizations are best served offering enrichment programs that help employees gain credentials they would not otherwise receive as well as management training programs and other certifications. That direct investment not only encourages loyalty but the organization directly and immediately benefits from a more knowledgeable workforce.
Disloyalty comes at a cost, not only internally but also externally. Former employees will take to social media and air their grievances. Unhappy staff who feel they were treated unfairly will use forums such as Glassdoor to publicly share their impressions, experiences which can quickly tank public perception, if there are multiple instances of culture issues.
Prospective employees can quickly see themes about the company culture by reading reviews, talking to current as well as former employees and may steer clear of organizations that convey disloyalty. If the internal dynamics are off, eventually the public will find out.
The moral of the story is to be good to your people. It pays off by the droves and insulates against unexpected attrition. If your company works hard to win loyal customers just as hard as loyal employees, the organization will be for the better. The days of employees staying years at one company are gone, however, the concept of loyalty still remains.