Employee loyalty is dead; tips for organizations in this new reality

A statement made by a senior HR leader with decades of experience, struck a chord with me. He said that couple of decades back, if a person was changing jobs every fHand writing Loyalty with blue marker on transparent wipe board.ew years, he would hesitate to hire that person. However, today if a person has stayed in the same organization for a long time, he would hesitate to hire him. His statement provides a good insight into employment norms and associated perceptions today.

In yester years, organizations promised long-term employment and opportunities to employees. Employee loyalty was rewarded. High performers grew in the organization, while the average performers continued to stay in their roles or grow at a slower pace. Jobs were secure and employees rarely thought of moving out. However, the concept of ‘life-long employment’ is gone, except probably in Government Service. The scenario has changed drastically as:

  • Companies have been chipping off on the relationship side with lay-offs, redundancies, firings etc. Irrespective of the experience – direct or vicarious – this has left an indelible mark on relationship between employees and organizations
  • Changing work preferences of employees – desire to gain new exposure, take up challenging assignments, willing to experiment, open to take risks with career
  • Plethora of opportunities for those willing to experiment and take risks
  • Changing attitude of employees towards work; employees increasingly are asking questions like “Is my work meaningful?”, “Does it fit with my life?”, “Am I learning? Is the role helping me stay on track of my career goals?”

I remember an exit interview taken couple of years back. The employee said; “I spent 4 great years of my life here. I learnt a lot, made many friends and had a wonderful experience. I am taking with me the experience and the network I created here, its invaluable.” I realized that he is telling the truth! That’s how many employees are seeing their work today – a milestone in a long a journey – no hard feelings.

Ironically, companies still crave for long-term employee loyalty. It’s measured in all employee engagement surveys and considered a key indicator of employee engagement.

Given this gap between desire and reality, what should organizations do? Especially traditional organizations that still look for long-term employee loyalty and reward an employee only after he / she demonstrated it. Few thoughts:

  • Adapt to changed context, follow the principle of ‘give the best, get the best’. Give the employee an exposure and experience that he will treasure now and years to come! Inspire him to deliver his best work every day, irrespective of whether he has spent 1 year or 3 or 5 or more years in the organization.
  • Minimize claw-back rewards. If an employee wants to leave, he will leave. Claw-back rewards do not hold back employees, instead it becomes a weapon to negotiate better compensation in next organization.
  • Create an organization with strong foundation of Values and Culture. This will ensure that the core culture of the organization remains intact, irrespective of people movement.
  • Having said that, organizations, more importantly, long serving managers should be open to different perspectives and experiences brought by new people. It’s a delicate balance between retaining the core culture and Values, without stifling the new people with old ways of working.
  • Valuing relationships with employees – whether they stay with the organization or decide to move out. Genuinely believe in the power of network and relationships; largely created by people movement across organizations and industries.

Question to ponder upon are: are your employees as well as ex-employees your brand ambassadors?

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