What does employee loyalty mean to you? Does it mean people not selling trade secrets? Or employees speaking positively about your company? Or turning down offers from your competitors?
Employee loyalty is a strange quality— it’s obvious when it exists, evident when it’s lacking, and elusive when it’s neither here nor there.
Determining what qualifies as employee loyalty is tricky, but if you can manage to make your staff loyal to your organization, the benefits you’ll receive are incredible. Loyalty makes it easy to adapt to new changes, improves growth, and helps companies navigate the tough times a global pandemic has brought on businesses.
This article discusses the benefits of employee loyalty, why employees leave and actionable ways leaders and managers can foster employee loyalty amidst the Great Resignation.
What is Employee Loyalty?
Employee loyalty is when employees feel attached to an employer because they believe their current employer has their best interests at heart.
A loyal employee isn’t likely to seek employment elsewhere and is a valuable resource in any organization. When your workers are dedicated, they’ll express this loyalty by staying with you and being enthusiastic about working for you to friends and acquaintances.
Furthermore, loyal staff focus on the success of the company. They go above and beyond, sacrificing their time, interests, and other resources for the organization’s good. Despite offers from elsewhere, setbacks, and challenges, their loyalty ensures they continue working for you. They are hired to do a job and will do all within their power to do their best.
Understanding loyalty requires realizing that you’re dealing with root emotions instead of the behaviors these emotions drive. Therefore, fostering company loyalty requires increasing the positive emotions while decreasing negative emotions felt by staff as they contemplate whether to stay or leave.
Considering the above, it’s every leader’s dream to have a loyal workforce. However, getting loyal employees is easier said than done. Gone are the days when people worked for an organization all their lives and were satisfied with being named ‘worker of the month.”
Before we consider how you can buck the trend and make your workers loyal, it’s imperative to understand why there’s a wave of not disloyalty, but something we like to call “un-loyalty.”
Reasons Employees Leave
Employee loyalty has been steadily declining over the years, and the Great Resignation has only brought it to the fore. Over 4 million American workers quit their jobs in July 2021, and resignations have remained abnormally high.
Here are some of the reasons why:
Employers aren’t Loyal
In the past, the term “lifetime employment” meant something, with employers offering workers the security of a job in exchange for loyalty. However, there has been a deterioration in relationships between companies and their workers. Organizations are under pressure from shareholders to maximize profit, and in turn, can’t guarantee job security. And staff can sense this—therefore, they don’t feel guilty about jumping ship.
There’s a popular saying that people leave managers, not companies — and research backs this saying up. Data published in DDI’s Frontline Leader Project reveals that up to 57% of staff have quit their job because of their manager, while 32% have seriously thought about leaving because of a manager.
Lack of Engagement
A disengaged worker isn’t putting their hearts into their work. They’re merely showing up, doing the barest minimum, and can’t wait to go home. If such workers receive offers from other companies, they are likely to jump ship.
No Professional Growth
Even workers that are relatively loyal start looking elsewhere if there’s a lack of professional growth opportunities.
Nobody wants to be stuck in a rut in the same job, but unfortunately, many promotion schedules don’t reward loyalty. If workers feel that their skills are not being used correctly or are passed over for promotions, they’ll look for another employer.
According to a report by Randstad US, more than 8 in 10 workers expect an annual pay rise to remain engaged and happy at work. So while having a great manager makes work more enjoyable, it doesn’t stop the expectation of an annual pay increase.
Benefits of Employee Loyalty
There are several reasons why staff loyalty is crucial to the health of organizations. Here are some of them:
It Builds Customer Loyalty
The relationship between a loyal worker and customer loyalty is a big reason to develop loyalty from workers.
Customer loyalty, customer satisfaction, value, and employee satisfaction are linked to profit and growth. How?
Customers become loyal when they are satisfied with your products and services. However, they can only get satisfied when attended to by engaged, productive, and dedicated employees.
Therefore, if you want to build a more profitable company, you have to have loyal employees.
It Improves the Company’s Image
Employer branding cannot work if your employees are not satisfied and loyal. Workers make the products and services and carry these under the company’s brand.
A company’s reputation also plays a huge role in employee recruitment and employee retention. When your workers are loyal, they enthusiastically talk up the company to others, whether in real-life or social media. And with companies such as Glassdoor allowing potential recruits to see what current staff say about their employers, you can have people either vying to work for you or simply seeing you as a stepping-stone to better opportunities.
It Boosts Employee Retention
Employee turnover is a problem all corporations face, but employee loyalty will help you keep turnover down. There’s nothing worse than hiring someone, giving them training, only for them to leave and use the skills you taught them for your competitor.
Loyal employees go above and beyond. They look for new ways to face work challenges and help the organization grow. When you have loyal workers, their loyalty can rub off on others, which boosts the overall productivity of your workforce.
13 Tips to Improve Employee Loyalty at Your Organization
1. Gather And Act On Employee Feedback
An actionable step to fostering employee loyalty is gathering and acting on employee feedback. “Your employees want to know where they stand at all times—and just like in any relationship, when that clarity is lost, everything comes into question. Employee loyalty is an organic result of an organization that actively works on establishing and maintaining positive feedback loops, always offering an ear to employee concerns,” says Tina Hawk, SVP HR at GoodHire.
And before employees can give genuine feedback, they have to feel safe and comfortable. Andrew Luna, Ceo of Hound, agrees. “To foster loyalty, you must make your workplace a space where employees can feel comfortable giving feedback,” he says. But, as he goes on to say, receiving feedback is just one part of the equation. “Simply just hearing the employee's feedback won't cut it. You don't have to implement every idea an employee may have, but you will need to show them your thought process on why you decide against a certain idea or why it isn't feasible today,” he continues.
Linda Nguyen, COO at Soupply, reveals what her company does to foster loyalty. She says, “Schedule monthly one-on-one check-ins to allow team members to provide feedback and suggestions for improvement. Then, make an effort to implement their ideas, if feasible.”
2. Recognize and Appreciate Frequently
One of the several benefits of employee recognition is how it helps in fostering employee loyalty. Building company loyalty begins with treating workers as people instead of cogs in a machine. In addition, several surveys have shown that employees will stay longer and be more productive if they are recognized and appreciated.
Employee recognition software like Nectar is invaluable and can help to create a culture of recognition in the workplace.
Alex Mastin, the founder of Homegrounds, says,” The number one thing to foster loyalty is appreciation. It sounds so simple, but running a structure that allows employees to have their say, feel welcomed in meetings, applauded for good work are all tools that help to engage an employee in wanting to stick with an organization.”
Appreciation motivates your staff to want to do even more, which in turn cultivates company loyalty. Anton Giuroiu, founder at Homesthetics, says, “Go all out on recognition. Foster loyalty by making sure a good job gets rewarded. Make sure you recognize a job well done and that you give proper incentives for such. Doing this will motivate your employees even more, fostering loyalty along the way.”
When giving praise, Zachary Hoffman, Ceo of DigitalPR.com, gives excellent advice. He says, “It's all well and good for a manager to say 'great work' during a scheduled one-to-one, but the most memorable praise happens unexpectedly. Set up a channel in your team's messaging software where recognition can be shared and even categorized by behavior.”
If you are a manager, have frequent personal conversations with your workers. At least once a month, sit with them virtually or in person to check in on how they’re doing at work and outside of work.
3. Offer Incentives and Perks
Financial incentives and other perks can be excellent motivators. There are several incentives you can give other than the year-end bonus. Here are some of the things you could provide:
- Gym memberships
- Personal days
- Flexible options
- Stock options
- Wellness programs
4. Create a Positive, Safe Work Environment
One of the reasons employees leave is a toxic work environment. Therefore, creating a positive, safe work environment of mutual respect and trust can help in instilling loyalty.
Speaking from experience, Marilyn Gaskell, founder at TruePeopleSearch, says, “… one of the best ways to encourage employee loyalty was by creating a positive and supportive work environment that uplifts employees and motivates them to come to work every day and give it their all.”
There are several ways to create a positive work environment. Here are two of them:
Prioritize Onboarding and Training
A survey by BambooHR revealed poor onboarding as a primary reason 17% of new workers quit in the first three months. Therefore, pay attention to onboarding by scheduling time for new hires to:
- Sit in on meetings
- Get mentored by existing employees
- Learn about workplace safety
- Be familiar with workplace codes of conduct
- Read important company files
Make the Workplace Comfortable
Workers find it difficult to do their best work when stressed or uncomfortable. Therefore, invest in creating a comfortable space for them. This might include investing in ergonomic chairs and desks, open workspaces, and so on.
Create Avenues for Communication
Now, more than ever before, employees want to be heard. However, fear, stress, and other factors might prevent them from reaching out. Thus, HR leaders need to create an environment that fosters open communication. Schedule open meetings where they’re free to ask questions, open anonymous channels of communication for those timid to express their worries, and have an open-door policy at all levels of leadership in the company.
5. Trust and Empower Your People
“There is no greater formula in establishing employee loyalty than empowerment in the workplace,” says Bob Scott, founder at Sell Land. He continues, “Autonomy plus trust is paramount in building relationships that enable the employees to work to their full potential. Seeking their advice and suggestions is a way to show that you are their equal and that you value their input.” With what result? Bob concludes, “When every team member feels empowered and important, they are more likely to be faithful to the core of the company."
So how can you follow this advice? Here are five ways:
Delegate to Grow
Some managers only delegate drudge work to employees, and this shortsightedness misses an opportunity to empower workers. Instead, delegate intentionally to help employees improve their capabilities.
You can avoid micromanagement by defining boundaries within which your employees can act. Doing this gives a measure of autonomy and allows them to use initiative while ensuring decisions align with company goals.
Provide the Tools They Need
Provide tools and resources that let employees solve everyday problems, communicate with each other, and contribute to the organization’s knowledge base.
Give Genuine and Constructive Feedback
Be specific and tactful about the feedback you provide. For example, telling an employee “well done” doesn’t give them any direction for what to do or avoid doing in the future. Instead, specificity about what you liked and didn’t like gives them a roadmap to progress.
Accept Ideas and Feedback
Another practical way to empower employees is by, when possible, involving them in decision-making processes. Be open to accepting their ideas and feedback. Not only will this make them feel valued, but it can also provide the company with truly great ideas.
6. Be a Loyal Manager
As we said earlier, loyalty is a two-way street. If you aren’t loyal to your employees, they won’t be loyal to you. Here are some ways you can show you’re dedicated to them:
When you promote employees, you show you’ll put them first and are confident in their ability. It also shows all the work they put in isn’t going unnoticed, which could lead to them doing even more work.
Hire Their Recommendations
Hiring someone based on the recommendation of your employee reveals that you have faith in their judgment and value their opinions. Furthermore, people enjoy doing business and working with people they like and trust. Hiring based on your staff recommendations ensures that there is a connection between the workforce. And when people have friends at work, it reduces the chances that they’ll leave.
7. Align Employees With Your Company Vision
This actionable advice by Steve Pogson, founder at FirstPier, involves enabling employees to embrace your company’s vision and values. Modern employees are not content with excellent pay—they want employment that offers purpose. So what can you do? Steve advises, “ Aligning your employees with your company's vision—and keeping them there—is a process that includes the following steps: In the first place, communicating the necessity of alignment. Then, develop and improve your team's vision together. Then, as time passes, maintain consistent touch and focus on your eyesight."
The lesson? Develop a strong workplace culture. Research from McKinsey & Company discovered that companies with clearly-defined identities provide higher returns to shareholders. Why? Likely because all employees understand the goals and objectives of the company.
Thus, create a uniting culture with a clear direction and align employees with this culture and vision.
8. Be Human-centric
Granted, becoming human-centric instead of profit-centric is challenging and requires an overhaul in thinking and company culture, but the advantage it gives makes it worth the change. By displaying empathy and humanity, you can transform how your employees feel about working for your company.
Practical ways to display humanity and empathy include:
- Engaging in team-building activities, e.g., picnics, baseball games, visiting local attractions, etc.
- Encourage collaboration between siloed departments
- Talk to them about their interests outside of work
9. Remove Uncertainty
The workplace today is more uncertain than ever before. Dips and highs in the economy constantly disrupt formerly stable industries and markets.
As a result, workers are pensive and unsure about the future. This climate of stress can reduce productivity and make workers constantly on the lookout for greener pastures.
Although you can’t fix the economy, your company can make staff feel at ease by briefing them and giving notice whenever changes are on the horizon.
10. Resolve Disputes
Despite the best workplace culture, employees will still clash and have problems with each other. The way you deal with these disputes will either foster loyalty or make employees unhappy.
Therefore, put a dispute resolution process in place to help staff know how to handle disputes.
You might also need to get rid of managers and employees who make the workplace miserable for others. It wouldn’t be inappropriate to terminate their employment or transfer them if you notice no changes after reprimanding them.
11. Open Lines of Communication
In difficult times, communication is what will make or break company loyalty. Employees shouldn’t be the last to know about essential changes in the company. Giving vague answers or reports will only make them more worried and undermine what little loyalty they might have.
“Creating a company that thrives on collaboration and communication is indispensable for employee loyalty,” says Saskia Ketz, the CEO of Mojomox. She continues, “Your team should feel comfortable communicating between colleagues and management too whenever necessary. Whether to clarify specific instructions or give ideas, open lines of communication between you and your employees can make them happy to stay on board."
Stephen Baldwin, founder at Assisted Living Center, is a proponent of establishing lines of communication that may have broken because of a lack of physical contact. “... you could set up different channels to share progress, give shoutouts, and share success stories using Slack or other platforms. Make one-on-one meetings a weekly thing for people who decided to be more at home."
12. Invest in Their Development
Another way to increase loyalty in employees is by investing in their development. You want your employees to be the best at what they do, so you need to give them the tools and resources they need.
“Although it may seem like the opposite to what you want to do, something that will keep any good worker loyal to your business is a challenge,” says Kamyar K.S, CEO of World Consulting. “Sometimes, offering promotions just isn't possible, so instead look at various responsibilities and training an employee can receive that give them extra skills and tools, re-engaging them with their work and allow them to feel challenged and that they are achieving in with what they are doing.”
That’s pretty great advice, and there are practical ways to implement it whether you’re a large organization or a small start-up.
Send Them to an Industry or Professional Event
These events are great learning and growing opportunities. When sending out employees to such events, choose those you’re sure will positively impact their skills.
Assign The a Coach
Not all employees have a clear career path in mind, and some have lofty ambitions without knowing how to achieve them. Assigning a coach can help. The coach is there, not to micromanage them but to help them draw a roadmap of where they are and want to be in the next couple of years. The coach can be an experienced manager or co-worker.
Share Specific, Self-Paced Learning Resources
There are so many resources that can help your employees regardless of their role or experience. Therefore, scale learning resources to the worker’s goals, comfort level, and preferences.
Offer Professional Qualification Options
Offering such options to your training programming lifts the status of your organization and employees, which in turn can build employee loyalty.
13. Offer a Flexible Work Schedule
Thanks to the global pandemic, the number of people working from home skyrocketed. This has changed what it means to have a flexible work schedule. It not only means the ability to decide where to work from but now includes when to work.
If you want to foster organizational loyalty, then you need to keep this change in mind. New research reveals that 1 in 3 employees will quit if they can’t work from home anymore.
So how can you create a flexible work schedule for employees? Here are actionable ways:
Instead of guessing what your workers want, it’s helpful to ask them exactly how they want a flexible working schedule implemented. Asking their opinion beforehand makes them feel valued, which in turn can foster their loyalty.
Create Clear Work-Life Boundaries
You’d think the pandemic would reduce work hours, but research reveals that people are spending an average of two more hours of work daily.
For remote managers, the ability to send messages at any time of the day is great, but employees don’t see it that way. Most people feel stressed knowing their managers are messaging them out of traditional working hours. You can ease their stress and foster loyalty by creating clear boundaries that prevent emails or messages after a specific time.
Enforce Time Off
Give workers the day off, or you can even institute company-wide shutdowns to allow employees to rest and spend time doing something else they love.
Give Flexible Working Hours
Perhaps your team consists of parents of young children that juggle school or daycare with work, or you have employees that’d love to volunteer but can’t because of their work schedule. If so, you can offer them flexible working hours. This means they can choose when to start and stop work as long as they meet their hourly requirements.
This arrangement, also known as Flextime, can lead to higher revenue due to increased employee engagement.
By offering a flexible work schedule, you can boost employee loyalty, engagement, and overall productivity.
It would be great if everyone you hired were immediately loyal to you. However, that’s a pipe dream. Loyalty is based on trust, and trust takes time to build. As a manager and leader, it’s up to you to gain employees’ confidence by being loyal to them first. And even if they eventually leave, the loyalty you’ve shown will likely have them become evangelists for your organization.
As a leader, you can’t control their loyalty to you, but you can manage your loyalty to them. Loyalty is tricky and elusive to find, but you can foster it among your staff by doing your part.