Employee loyalty is a two-way street. Often, we like staying with one employer for the long haul. It makes career advancement easier, often sets us up for promotions, helps develop a community and establishes best practices relevant to the organization.
However, to cash in on these perks, there needs to be space for employees to grow, for the community to thrive and for innovation to be possible. Both the employer and the employees have a hand in making this happen.
Why employee loyalty is important
Regardless of whether an employee is “in it for the long haul,” loyalty in the moment can still make a huge difference in an organization. An organization is the sum of the parts, and if the employees believe in what they are doing and are loyal to the synergistic possibilities of the collective, it is easy to see that the organization, as a whole, will be better off. If employees don't believe in the message or don’t care one way or another about the organization’s mission, then the practices, vision and voice of the organization can become fragmented.
Here are a few key reasons why employee loyalty should be a priority:
- Loyal employees speak with customers/stakeholders/etc. with “one voice” (more accurately: complimentary voices that don’t contradict one another or the organization’s published literature).
- Loyal employees are happier and more enjoyable to work with.
- Loyal employees go above and beyond to drive the team.
- Low employee turnover saves money since you don’t have to keep paying to train new employees.
- Loyal employees work harder and smarter, having higher productivity and higher work satisfaction.
- Loyalty increases motivation to improve the organization.
- Loyalty increases motivation to improve communication within the organization.
- Loyal employees are often more committed to all elements of work: productivity, team building, conflict resolution, intentional workplace environment shifts, professionalism, confidentiality, respect of property and experience.
How do you build employee loyalty?
If employee loyalty is the responsibility of both the employer and the employee, then how should each work to build it? Below are ideas that employers and employees alike can use to improve their own employee-loyalty-building programs.
Saying “thank you” or “good job” goes a long way. This can take different forms, from celebrating work anniversaries to having incentives for achieving milestones. Often, however, it does not have to be over the top or expensive. A simple email, note or card telling an employee or employer that something happened which you appreciate, respect or know must have been hard builds a sense of loyalty by showing one another that you care how they do and how they feel about their work.
From setting up a coffee cart in the mornings so that everyone is caffeinated and ready to go to offering counseling services, meditation or yoga classes to supplying food, parking or bus passes or options to telecommute, you should prioritize your employees' comfort. If you have an idea for a way to make your office environment or your team more comfortable, share it with your employer. The easiest way for an employer to take steps to increase employee loyalty is to get ideas from the people it will affect.
Give out/buy company swag.
Within reason, company swag is a great way to build a sense of community, just like a sports team with matching gear. Having an article of clothing branded with one’s workplace can also help an employee achieve a feeling of ownership over their place of employment. Now, if someone already hates working for a company, a fleece jacket isn’t going to change their mind. But having a few nice pieces of company swag floating around (perhaps giving them out as five-year work anniversary gifts) can certainly make a difference in increasing organization/brand loyalty. Note that having a few nice pieces of company swag is not the same as mandatory uniforms.
One of the best ways to advance your career is to have a mentor, and the most helpful mentors are often those that work with you or in the same organization. Having built-in mentor programs not only helps employees find and bond with mentors, but it also helps the organization build its community by having people in different levels interact and form relationships outside of project work.
Birthday celebrations are an easy way to let people in an organization interact in a casual environment. People often like to feel special on their birthdays so a little can go a long way; even just a lunchtime cupcake party in a conference room can make an impact. Office birthday parties make sure everyone knows everyone’s names and, over time, even when their birthdays are, building bonds between coworkers.
Good leadership looks like everyone leading something different and everyone spearheading what they believe in whenever possible. Even if an employee isn’t a supervisor or wouldn’t make a good supervisor, that doesn’t mean they don’t have leadership skills relevant to running a specific project, implementing a new initiative in the office or teaching their coworkers something new. When people lead, in whatever form that works for them, they are invested, and many positive forms of employee loyalty can emerge.
The easiest way for us to feel loyal to an employer is when we feel that the employer cares about us. Sometimes, it can be difficult to feel like an employer is actually looking out for their employees, instead of trying to profit off of them. Employee benefits — from health, dental and life insurance to PTO, workers compensation, retirement, childcare, commuting help, education assistance and legal protection — are major ways for an employer to show that they care about the livelihood, quality of life, and safety of their employees, and this, perhaps more than anything else, will build employee loyalty.
- Have patience.
- Accept that loyalty looks different for different people.
- Have a working definition of “loyalty” that acknowledges nuance, power dynamics and employer-responsibility.
- Understand emotions and where they are coming from. Employee loyalty on an individual level means both positive emotions about an employer and a lack of negative emotions.
- Don’t expect something for nothing (if it’s not a nice place to work, employees aren’t going to be loyal for nothing).
- Be respectful.
- Make sure management communicates all their expectations clearly.
- Having an employee referral programs can lower employee turnover.
- Employees who feel they are in charge (whether of a team, a project or an office initiative) will have a stake in the outcome.
- Be transparent: nothing kills employee loyalty like the feeling that you are being lied to or left in the dark.
- If employees don’t have confidence in upper management, find out why. And fix it.
- Make sure there are methods in place for employees to request materials/training/anything they need to complete their job.
- Have structured and transparent dispute resolution protocols.
Loyalty is nebulous and individual; you’ll never be able to track and analyze it perfectly. Healthy loyalty grows over time and builds on behavior, management, community and communication. Not only does employee loyalty decrease the likelihood of employee turnover, but it also boosts productivity, improves quality of life for employees and adds to the stability and focus of the organization. So talk with your team about employee loyalty or check out FGB’s reviews to see how a company stacks up on employee satisfaction and other loyalty indicators!