There are always people who will say that employee loyalty is a rather subjective matter and that gauging the factual state of things is all but impossible, but all (or at least the vast majority) of recent research shows that employee loyalty has diminished.
In 2015, MetLife published a survey called UK Employee benefits trends survey which showed that not even a third of employees feel loyal to their employers. Of course, employers were more optimistic and this was the running theme throughout the survey, where employers believed their employees saw them in a much better light than they actually did.
And this is a global phenomenon. For example, in the United States, the American Management Association did a similar survey which found out that more than a half of all managers thought their employees were less loyal than five years ago. Only 11% said they were more loyal.
A few years ago, CareerBuilder.com did a research which showed more than 75% of employees are either actively or passively looking for a new job.
We are talking opinions here, but no matter who does the studies, it can be pretty obvious that employees are feeling less loyal to their employers than in “the good old days”.
As is often the case, there is no one singular reason for this diminishing employee loyalty and it is more of a combination of many reasons.
For example, Adam Cobb of the Wharton business school says a lot of it can be traced back to the 1980s when healthy companies started laying off people for no other reason than to boost shareholder value of those companies. Whatever loyalty the average worker had had until then was all but destroyed by adopting this as a common practice. The 2008 Financial Crisis and the subsequent lack of any loyalty on the part of the employers also led to a further drop in loyalty.
Others are saying that the loyalty is shifting from the organisation to individuals such as immediate superiors, colleagues, perhaps even clients. The companies have become these disengaged entities who, in turn, invite a disengaged workforce. This shift of loyalty is especially characteristic of younger employees, the mythical millennials. There are also experts who say that the idiosyncrasies of the millennial generation, such as the need to develop their own personal brand, are also a big factor in declining employee loyalty.
Finally, there is also a shift in the mind-set where employees remain loyal, but believe that they have every right to move on if the circumstances call for it, much like in personal romantic relationships where loyalty does not have to mean forever.
What you can do as an employer
The first thing to do as an employer or even a manager is to find the best way to actually measure employee satisfaction and loyalty in a way that will give you concrete results. There is a great article on this here at Fresh Business Thinking and I suggest you read it.
If you want to know what the British workers think, MetLife once again did a great job and they found out that the following are the actions that would inspire them to stay with their current employer – increasing their salary; improve their benefits package, provide them with advancement opportunities, contribute more to their retirement plan, offer more flexible work arrangements; reduce their work stress and improve their job security.
It is important to point out that these are all actions that would keep the British employee at their current company, but that is hardly employee loyalty, you will probably agree.
This is why employee engagement has to be factored in. Motivating employees, encouraging them to give their best, communicating the right way and all the other employee engagement practices are something you have to adopt as a standard.
Finally, be a decent person. Treating your employees the way you would like to be treated as one is probably the best way to make decisions when you have nothing else to go on.
Without decency and loyalty on your part, you cannot exactly expect your employees to show you any.
If you do so, you will at least know you have done everything in your power.
By James D. Burbank, editor in chief at BizzMarkBlog