Earned vs. Need-Based Loyalty

Call me old fashioned, but I cringe every time I hear another claim about how we are moving into the age of “careerism” and “just in time staffing”. Why? Because we always hear about this fad right at the tail end of every downturn.  It’s like herpes spread by some “experts” who never had to operate a company.

I am yet to see a substitute for a loyal team – during bad and good times. Earned loyalty takes time to build, compared to need-based loyalty, so you must build a strategy to foster earned loyality long before you need to “cash it in”.

What do I mean by earned loyalty vs. need-based loyalty?  Many people are staying with their current companies right now because of need-based loyalty – they have mortgages and car notes to pay. But this type of loyalty has no longevity because the company did not earn it. Yes, I said it: earning the loyalty is completely the job of the company and its leadership.

Progress is a #1 motivator for knowledge workers (money is not even in the top 3) and I think it is what helps keep people loyal. Here are some methods that could help build that earned loyalty:

  • Companies should not be scared to improve the resumes of their employees. I would suggest that managers sit down with their team members and review their updated resumes every quarter. Why? 1.) To get on the same page about the value of their team members’ work. 2.) To stay in the loop about how their people feel about the progress. 3.) To look for areas where more professional development would help. 4.) To stay on the cutting edge – if you give people tools to help them leave the company, you will be much more motivated to develop tools to keep them loyal.
  • If you have middle management, remove (literally and figuratively) the doors to the executive leadership offices. I have seen executives slowly get out of touch with what really is happening in the trenches and what customers are experiencing, even in small companies of 20 or less employees. One of the best ways to make sure executives are informed is to keep middle management honest and make sure your employees are being heard.  Remove physical barriers so that your people can communicate straight to the top, and punish those who are set on creating company politics.

This is just a small sampling of methods that addresses #1 motivator. There will be a few follow-up articles to this topic. In the meantime, I would love to hear your feedback in the comments section.

Photo credit: Celanth

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