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Loyalty? What Loyalty?

Over the past few weeks I seem to be stumbling across articles and have been involved in discussions about Gen Y and how they are – according to some – disloyal to their employers.

Over the past few weeks I seem to be stumbling across articles and have been involved in discussions about Gen Y and how they are – according to some – disloyal to their employers.

The main complaint I have heard is that Generation Y is fickle and impatient. They get bored easily and are unable to commit to a company long term. That’s nothing new; in fact, it’s what used to be said about Gen Xers, too.

In a recent discussion I was involved in, a CEO was getting very vocal on the subject, giving Gen Ys a hard bashing:

“They’re only loyal to certain people in the company,” he exclaimed heatedly, “but not to the company itself.”

When I asked what the company had specifically done to earn the employees’ loyalty, the CEO looked at me with a quizzical expression.

“It’s like marriage,” I explained, holding my hand up when he tried to butt in. “I’m 100% loyal to my husband and we have been happily married for almost 13 years. He receives that loyalty because he loves me and treats me with respect – and it works in the same way in the opposite direction. Without mutual loyalty and respect, our marriage wouldn’t last.”

The CEO nodded and I continued:

“Shift that to a business setting. A company can only expect loyalty from employees if that company demonstrates loyalty towards them in the first place. Can you tell me what your company has specifically done to earn loyalty from its employees?”

The answer was the crux of the problem:

“We gave them a job,” he said.

Employing someone isn’t enough to earn their loyalty. It’s the equivalent of expecting undying love after a first date.

Loyalty doesn’t happen overnight

Loyalty between a company and an employee develops over time. It’s something that has to be worked on from both sides, and it has to be earned – as in any other relationship.

An employee typically wants to be respected, nurtured, heard and be taken care of. Some leaders are better at doing this than others, hence why employees can be more dedicated to certain people, and not necessarily to a company. This is particularly the case when an employee feels that there is little or no loyalty towards them from higher up the echelons. This can be a big problem in large companies, for example, where an employee feels the powers that be think of them as “just a number” and, admittedly, it is a challenge to change that perception.

Undoubtedly, companies that are able to retain their talent are those led by individuals who understand the value in demonstrating loyalty themselves, and who don’t expect absolute devotion from employees just because they were given a job.

Lost cause for earning Millennials’ loyalty?

Ultimately I don’t think that Gen Y-ers are disloyal and unable to commit. I think it’s got far more to do with the fact that they are less willing to put up with companies that don’t demonstrate respect or loyalty towards them. It’s a good thing because it forces companies to rethink how they treat their people, it means working environments will continue to improve.

With the arrival of the Internet, email, job boards, networking sites and social media, finding roles to apply for has become much, much easier. You don’t have to scour the classifieds sections in newspapers and spend your weekends in front of a photocopier anymore. You have access to thousands of opportunities at the click of a button – so why should you stay with a company that seemingly doesn’t care?

The answer to the question, “How can we increase our employees’ loyalty?” is a simple one:

Look for ways to increase the company’s loyalty towards its people. After all, loyalty always has been – and always will be – a two-way street, regardless of the generation in question.


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