Loyalty . . . to what?

I'm reminded, from time-to-time, of the inequality of expectations between employees and employers with respect to employment. Especially in the small to mid-sized businesses, the owners are often frustrated with employees who do not seem to put effort into the business. They don't have a sense of “ownership.” Well, that's because they aren't owners, and usually aren't treated as owners.

On the employee side, they feel that it's quite alright for them to give two weeks notice if they get a better offer elsewhere, but at the same time seem to think that as long as they want to stay, they should be able to do so. If the employer lets them go (for whatever reason), they feel that somehow it is unfair. Of course, this is not true of all employees nor do all business owners despair over employees not acting as if the company is their own. However, there does seem to be anecdotal data to back up my perceptions.

This situation first came to my attention many years ago as I worked in the semiconductor industry. We had facilities in Silicon Valley (Sunnyvale and San Jose). I often heard managers complaining that employees were more than willing to leave for a slight raise and join another company. It seemed to be easy to do in the valley and it seemed to be true; and it made me wonder. So I started asking some questions of the engineers, marketers and sales people who left our company and those still with us. The picture became a bit clearer. It seems that there was a lot of loyalty – but the loyalty was to a particular product line or architecture rather than a company. So if I considered myself a Complex Instruction Set Computer (CISC) kind of guy, I would go where all the exciting things were happening in that field. Likewise if I considered myself a Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) person. If I was skilled and excited about one architecture and the company began to emphasize the other, I eventually left to find another employer in line with my talents and passions. This kind of “loyalty to a concept” was even more prevalent in the software and Internet companies.

So managers needed to change the context in which they interpreted the content of their experience with respect to “loyal employees.” If an engineer or sales person believed in a certain product or architecture and we began to de-emphasize that particular product, then we could expect to see folks leave for greener pastures. On the other hand, if we kept pushing the envelope and introduced new products and improvements to existing products, then our employees were “loyal” and mostly content.

Discovering this different view of loyalty led to some insights that served some divisions very well. As long as they were able to stay at the leading edge of product development, they kept the best employees. They found that salary and other monetary rewards were not the biggest motivators. They had to be competitive, but by and large, it was an exciting environment in product development that the employees appreciated and which kept them happy and inspired.

So as we work our way out of this recession and employees begin feeling as though employment changes are possible, how will you hold on to your key players? Do you know what your employees are loyal to? Since they don't own the company, it likely isn't the company itself that inspires them. They may be grateful for the company and the employment it provides, but what are they really passionate about?

Is your culture one of team work and does everyone in your company agree? Have them take our Company Cultural Assessment. CLICK HERE to download your assessment.

Is  your hiring methodology designed to attract top talent and weed out those candidates that embellish? You can download our 8 Point Hiring Methodology Assessment Scorecard and find out. CLICK HERE to download.

About the author

Dave Kinnear is a sought after Business Advisor and Mentor. He works with highly successful executives through one-to-one mentoring and coaching meetings. Individuals who are presently running successful businesses and executives in transition work with Dave to ensure meeting corporate and/or career goals. Through his affiliation with Vistage International, Dave convenes and facilitates Advisory Boards comprising Business Owners, Company Presidents and Chief Executives dedicated to becoming better leaders who make better decisions and achieve better results.

DaveKinnear

About the Author

Dave Kinnear is a sought after business advisor and mentor. He works with highly successful executives through one-to-one mentoring and coaching meetings. Individuals who are presently running successful businesses and executives in transition work with Dave to ensure meeting corporate and/or career goals. Through his affiliation with Vistage International, Dave convenes and facilitates Advisory Boards comprising Business Owners, Company Presidents and Chief Executives dedicated to becoming better leaders who make better decisions and achieve better results.

Comments

  1. Ed Johnson says:

    While I agree with the the premise above (particularly for engineers and others in technology), I think for most employees, “loyalty” may be even simpler — perceived reciprocity. Employees will have greater loyalty to an employer that they believe values and is loyal them. When the company asks its employees to share the pain in bad times, is there an expectation on the part of employees that the company will restore the cuts and share the wealth in good times?

    Another indicator, but from a different vector, is how companies treat people in RIF’s (particularly with respect to notice and/or severance). Will displaced workers be given a “soft landing”?

    Common traditional devices to reinforce loyalty, tenure, and retention are benefits related (e.g., vesting of retirement benefits, vacation entitlements linked to tenure, etc.) but are often taken for granted, and I doubt they have a very high return for dollar spent.

    At the end of the day, companies reap what they sow….

  2. Sheridan Layman says:

    I agree with Ed. Especially in economic times like these employers and employees alike should not expect loyalty. Many employers already do not offer bonuses or give raises for good performance. Years of service awards have gone from meaningful awards to symbolic pins and handshakes. I remember a time when the department was called Employee Relations and not Human Resources. Many companies have started focusing on how they can recruit/place individuals quickly and cheaply rather than how they can retain top talent – because they know they have nothing to offer.

    50 to 60 hour work weeks, doing the job that 10 years ago was done by 5 individuals, unrealistic expectations, expectations of being first to market but without the funding to make sure the product works, working in an environment where few are willing to help but all are willing to point a finger.

    I suggest that all companies looking for loyalty and a sense of ownership take a look at what the employees would be owning.

    When the primary method of making the quarterly earning statements is cutting staff … most employees are always looking for that 5% or even 2% raise in pay that is offered when jumping ship to another company in hopes that they can avoid having their name pulled in the next quarterly lay-off lottery.

  3. Hi Ed,

    Thanks for your comment. I agree, the loyalty question can indeed be viewed from several different vantage points. And it has to be a mutually beneficial endeavor.

    Your question on the ROI for some of the benefits is interesting. I hope you will say more about that.

    Dave K.

  4. Sheridan,

    Thanks for your comments. I agree both sides have to think about what they mean and what they expect when using the word “loyalty.” Employees will want to weigh the risk of being the “newest employee” and employers must take a hard look at how much turnover costs.

    Interestingly,this topic is hot today because of the government’s attempt at boosting hiring by offering tax and other incentives. So far, the business owners have indicated that they are not going to put folks on the payroll just for a tax incentive. Instead, they are looking for signs of sustainable economic growth. Until then, they are indicating part-time employment will increase to pick up the workload if orders increase temporarily. Another wrinkle!

    Dave K.

Speak Your Mind

*

CommentLuv badge

This blog is kept spam free by WP-SpamFree.

Email
Print