CO - HR Innovation

Let's not confuse loyalty with longevity

Let's not confuse loyalty with longevity
Let's not confuse loyalty with longevity

It is interesting that the issue of loyalty in the workplace is still an issue for many leaders in the 21st century organisation. Allow me to weigh in on this topic.

Understanding loyalty

The online Cambridge dictionary define loyalty as 'the quality of being loyal' and 'your feelings of support'. The emphasis is on the 'feeling towards', not on years of service. Unfortunately most people still define workplace loyalty with years of service.

Historically, employees in the past stayed long with a company for one of three reasons; jobs were scarce, work was seen as a means to an end (because our expectation of life is geographically bound) and they forged strong relationship with their co-workers. Scarcity of jobs made people value job security, people work for a living and the pace and type of work were slow and routine that people have time to forge strong relationships. So, people stayed because the organisation then provided them with what they need; a sense of security, friendship and a means for living.

Times have changed. Through education and the ability to travel, we are taught to find a job 'we love'. In a connected world, we are bombarded by messages of 'what we could be'. This increases ones' desire and wants. Job security is replaced by job satisfaction, working for a living is replaced by the 'opportunity to realize one's potential' and friendship is 'virtually' everywhere.

Is loyalty the real issue?

If you are a leader and focuses on loyalty, perhaps the issue isn't about loyalty but more about how them moving makes our job more difficult. Loyalty is a two way street. If we want loyalty, we need to give loyalty. Would you recommend your employee to another department if you know their interest is in another department or would you keep that information or even dissuade them so they can continue to help you achieve your goal? If you know there isn't any opportunity for your employee to move up in your organisation, would you get them to consider getting a job somewhere else that would help them achieve their ambition? If your answer to both this question is 'no', then perhaps your issue is not about loyalty but rather it is about making things convenient for you. A one way loyalty is akin to slavery, don't you think?

Loyalty to the relationship, not the organisation

Loyalty is an emotion and in my opinion, loyalty is to a relationship. While organisation is made up of people, more often than not, decisions made are based on 'sound decision making' (a nicer way to say don't allow emotion to be involved in the decision making). Organisations are a great place to develop skills and also understand how the world works BUT if you want loyalty, you need to invest in others.

Start with career conversations. Get to know your employee, find out what are they looking for, develop a plan which fulfills their needs and yours. This create a win-win partnership. If they give you more than you expect, that is a bonus. The benefit of this approach is that you are able to anticipate when your employee might move on and be prepared for it.

As an organisational leader, our job is to achieve the organisation's goal. As a person, our role is to develop others. Why can't we do both at the same time?
  • Peter Isaac
    Peter Isaac
    Chief Executive Officer

    Let's not confuse loyalty with longevity It is interesting that the issue of loyalty in the workplace is still an issue for many leaders in the 21st century organisation. Allow me to weigh in on this topic. Understanding loyalty The online Cambridge dictionary define loyalty as 'the quality of being loyal' and 'your feelings of support'. The emphasis is on the 'feeling towards', not on years of service. Unfortunately most people still define workplace loyalty with years of service. Historically, employees in the past stayed long with a company for one of three reasons; jobs were scarce, work was seen as a means to an end (because our expectation of life is geographically bound) and they forged strong relationship with their co-workers. Scarcity of jobs made people value job security, people work for a living and the pace and type of work were slow and routine that people have time to forge strong relationships. So, people stayed because the organisation then provided them with what they need; a sense of security, friendship and a means for living. Times have changed. Through education and the ability to travel, we are taught to find a job 'we love'. In a connected world, we are bombarded by messages of 'what we could be'. This increases ones' desire and wants. Job security is replaced by job satisfaction, working for a living is replaced by the 'opportunity to realize one's potential' and friendship is 'virtually' everywhere. Is loyalty the real issue? If you are a leader and focuses on loyalty, perhaps the issue isn't about loyalty but more about how them moving makes our job more difficult. Loyalty is a two way street. If we want loyalty, we need to give loyalty. Would you recommend your employee to another department if you know their interest is in another department or would you keep that information or even dissuade them so they can continue to help you achieve your goal? If you know there isn't any opportunity for your employee to move up in your organisation, would you get them to consider getting a job somewhere else that would help them achieve their ambition? If your answer to both this question is 'no', then perhaps your issue is not about loyalty but rather it is about making things convenient for you. A one way loyalty is akin to slavery, don't you think? Loyalty to the relationship, not the organisation Loyalty is an emotion and in my opinion, loyalty is to a relationship. While organisation is made up of people, more often than not, decisions made are based on 'sound decision making' (a nicer way to say don't allow emotion to be involved in the decision making). Organisations are a great place to develop skills and also understand how the world works BUT if you want loyalty, you need to invest in others. Start with career conversations. Get to know your employee, find out what are they looking for, develop a plan which fulfills their needs and yours. This create a win-win partnership. If they give you more than you expect, that is a bonus. The benefit of this approach is that you are able to anticipate when your employee might move on and be prepared for it. As an organisational leader, our job is to achieve the organisation's goal. As a person, our role is to develop others. Why can't we do both at the same time?

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