Rarely does a week pass these days without news of a company shutting shop, or restructuring or planning to axe jobs; thus leading to hundreds or thousands of lay-offs. This ‘does not happen in India’ phenomena, even a couple of decades back, has become a new normal today. It is not just limited to start-ups and global companies. Even large Indian corporate houses and public sector organizations, who at one time used to take pride in life-time employment, have not remained immune to it.
Lay-offs are a painful process for everyone involved. I would like to believe that most organizations, if not all, would take this as a last resort. The business environment today is forcing organizations to make such difficult decisions. But, what intrigues me is organizations’ fetish with employee loyalty even today?
Consider any employee engagement survey run by organizations; employee loyalty is a key part of the assessment. A typical employee engagement model has four elements – pride, satisfaction, advocacy and loyalty. Following are a couple of sample questions on loyalty:
- “I see myself working in this organization two years from now.” – An employee might wonder, “yes, I see myself working here two years from now. But, will my role exist two years hence? Will the organization exist two years hence”?
- “I rarely ever think of moving out of this organization.” – An employee wonders, “are you kidding? My appointment letter says that we can mutually terminate the employment with 2 or 3 months’ notice. With all the lay-offs happening around, isn’t it a weird question to ask”.
This obsession for loyalty permeates into several spheres of an employee life – be it eligibility for promotion or critical roles, awards or recognitions, talent assessments, deferred compensation and many more – things that matter to an employee.
If an organization can’t guarantee employment (even to highly capable and suitable employees), is it fair for to expect the employees to stay loyal?
Is it time for organizations to move away from this traditional definition of employee loyalty – length of employment or intent to work with the organization?
What can an organization today commit to its employees and be confident to meet the promise? Enable them to stay employable. An organization can surely give its employees experience and exposure that will help them constantly develop themselves and in turn stay employable today, as well as in future.
Needless to say, employees have to be open to such exposure and development. In fact, it has the potential to become a symbiotic relationship leading to the new definition of loyalty. Employees go through the exposure and willingly take on challenging tasks; put in their best efforts every single day of their association with the organization, till the last day. And when they have to leave, they leave as friends, without any hard feelings – with a promise to stay friends forever and brand ambassadors of the organization – rather than a bitter ex!
It’s time for organizations to move to the new definition of employee loyalty in changing times! And adapt its people processes to this evolving definition.