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Who Killed Company Loyalty?

Company loyalty is dead. That’s what we continuously hear. This crop of employees is not loyal to their company or to their boss. Have you ever experienced this: a key employee quits out of the blue for a “better” job and you wondered, how could she? Turnover is high in your organization and you thought, what’s wrong with these people?

Loyalty is dead and study after study seems to confirm this. Today’s employees will have an average of nine different jobs in their career–nine different jobs! That’s a real change from that older generation of workers who joined the company and stayed long enough to get their pension and their gold watch. Those were the “good ole days.” What happened? Who killed company loyalty?

Before we damn this generation of workers, consider this possibility. Maybe, just maybe, employers killed company loyalty. That’s right, employers killed loyalty. How could this happen? Why would they do it? It’s suicide.

Consider this: when sales slip and profits are in jeopardy, why is head count reduction the first response to quickly right the ship? When health insurance premiums inch up, why is passing the cost onto the employees the best solution? When staffing levels slip, why is getting workers to do more with less the best response?

Maybe these solutions make good business sense on one level, but do you really think they’ll endear your employees to you and the company? What do you suppose employees think when they see fellow long service, higher paid workers laid off in the name of cost cutting? Do you think they feel they now have job security? What do you think employees feel when their contribution to their health insurance skyrockets, their merit increases hover around 3%, and then they read about top executives of big companies making millions of dollars in salary, bonuses and stock options? Do you think they feel they are getting a fair shake?

The Conference Board in their annual survey of employee job satisfaction reports that employees are not satisfied with the way things are going. Satisfaction with work, pay, job training, promotional opportunities and supervision are in a free-fall. Employees are not identifying with their organization, its goals and mission. In fact, a quarter of the workers admit they are just showing up to collect a paycheck!

What can be done? Can loyalty rise from the dead?

Some employers do enjoy employee loyalty. That’s right–and they also enjoy all the benefits of loyalty including productivity, quality service, retention and healthy bottom-lines. How?

The quick and simple answer is that they take care of their employees. This is not a warm and fuzzy, pie in the sky response. This is a pragmatic, bottom-line approach to the business. Without motivated, focused employees, organizations cannot operate well. With unacceptably high turnover (often defined as pure misery) you cannot grow your organization. Employers who take care of their employees find that their employees take care of them and their company. Employers who don’t, suffer the consequences.

Employees simply want to be treated fairly; they want a boss to be empathetic to their needs–to care; and they want to be respected. Employers don’t have to pay top dollars to keep employees, but you have to pay competitively. Employers can demand that your employees work hard, but you have to treat them fairly. And employers can expect that their employees remain loyal–but employers must be loyal to them.

We’re living in tough economic times. Costs are rising, labor is scarce, foreign competition is growing, and employers are being squeezed. More and more, success is dependent on a loyal workforce. Partner with your employees, take care of them, and then go out and buy those gold watches–you’re going to need them again.