Loyalty in the Eyes of Employers and Employees

By McCusker, Deb; Wolfman, Ilene | Workforce, November 1998 | Go to article overview
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Loyalty in the Eyes of Employers and Employees

McCusker, Deb, Wolfman, Ilene, Workforce

In this fast-paced, rapidly changing business environment in which corporate growth, profitability and productivity are critical, the biggest question for HR may possibly be, "How can we build and keep employee loyalty high?"

We asked some HR professionals and a sample of employees their thoughts on employee loyalty. We wanted to focus on women, so we used an employee sample of 30 professional businesswomen who ranged in age from under 25 to over 55 with the median in the 35 to 45 age group. They lived and worked in Massachusetts or California. The median length of time in their current position was 3.25 years, total years worked was 15.5, median number of jobs was two, and median salary range was $50,000 to $100,000. Sixty percent had one or more children.

Both parties agree on the definition.

If you haven't already explored this question with employees and managers, you may be in danger of not even recognizing loyalty when it's there. When we asked our groups to define loyalty, they responded with many similar definitions. They said loyalty includes being willing to stay through good and bad times, internalizing company goals as personal goals, and giving extra time, energy and commitment to the company when necessary.

Our groups described loyalty as a devotion to the company, and a positive representation of the company to the greater community. It's the ability of people to look at what's best for the organization and sometimes put the company ahead of personal, family and other considerations.

Loyalty changes over time.

When asked if their loyalty had changed during their careers, 80 percent of the respondents indicated that it had. A little more than half of this group felt they were less loyal to their current companies than in the past, a third felt more loyal, and the rest considered themselves as loyal today as they had been in the past, but based their loyalty on new requirements.

Several factors contributed to decreased levels of loyalty. They include downsizing, mergers, low job satisfaction and a change in personal priorities from company to family and friends.

Interestingly, the impact on loyalty of downsizing and mergers was not from the actual loss of jobs. Rather the decrease is a result of the lack of communication between employees and managers. All of our respondents felt it was critically important that companies have ongoing, timely and honest communication with their employees about both good and bad news. One employee said, "I get frustrated when upper management manipulates news just to get a particular spin and invoke a certain mood with employees. We're intelligent folks-we can separate spin from facts."

Loyalty relates to satisfaction.

One of the chief reasons for diminishing loyalty over a period of time was that hard work and extra effort are assumed or required, as the norm by the organization, rather than being recognized and rewarded. These employees view the contributions that go "above and beyond" as discretionary, and want to be valued and respected for choosing to work longer hours, taking on increased responsibilities and giving superior service.

Those who indicated an increase in their loyalty cited high job satisfaction, recognition for ajob well done and a company culture that supports a work/family balance. Again, women in our sample talked about being recognized for their contibutions, as well as working in companies that supported them in times of personal need and offered opportunities for growth and development. One respondent wrote, "I believe loyalty is derived from personal and organizational success. My loyalty is highest when I have high job satisfaction and see the organization succeeding."

Take note, HR: Being valued and respected by one's employer is even more important in developing and maintaining loyalty than the company's work/family benefits. The good news is that loyalty can be influenced by things as simple and inexpensive as getting individual feedback on a job well done, being thanked for working longer hours or being part of the decision-making process.

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