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4 Things That Keep Employees Loyal

The average person will hold over 11 jobs in their lifetime. That number only increases when you look at millennials. Of course, there are varying reasons for this trend. But one that can’t be overlooked is employee loyalty, or lack of loyalty in many cases. Many times, people assume the organizations with the most money have the highest rates of loyalty, but this is not always the case. In a recent article in Business Insider, they highlight 4 tips that any organization (public, private, large, small, profitable etc) can do to keep great employees- and it’s not about money.

1. Good communication

Communication is one of those things that gets talked about (a lot) but changes are hard to come by. However, there are some standard rules that everyone should follow: communicate often, much more than you think you need to. Communicate about things that matter, not trivia. Be as open and as honest as you can, but not rude. Communicate simply and don’t make things more complicated than they are. If possible, communicate in-person, not through email or office communicator. Communicate in the moment, don’t let issues fester. Most importantly, as the article says, “communicate–you’re in a relationship with these people.”

2. Consistency. According to the article, “Sometimes good employees leave for clearly defined, explicable reasons, but often they leave for reasons that even they find hard to articulate.” The “death by one thousands cuts” is a standard reason for leaving. But how did that happen? According to the article, it boils down to inconsistency, a lack of trust, and an overall lack of respect in how someone has been treated. People like consistency and knowing where they stand. As the article notes, this can be improved by doing what you say you’ll do, making things happen, and following through on your word, no matter how small the task. Show respect by being consistent and enforce the same consistency in others.

3. The opportunity to do great work. Give people the opportunity to do great work, and recognize what work that is. Great employees won’t stay at an organization while managers do everything important, or play favorites with who gets to do the good stuff. If it’s not balanced, people will find a place that is more balanced and their work is appreciated.

4. A decent, non-toxic manager. “People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.” In every exit poll, one reason for leaving consistently tops the list, and that is bad managers. How do you overcome this? According to the article, “Don’t make someone a manager because they’re not cutting it in their day job. Don’t make your cousin Jimmy a manager because your sister asked for a favor.” Choose managers who do all of the above: communicate well, are consistent and let their people do great work. It also doesn’t hurt to pick managers that were good at their job.

What do you think? What would you add to the list?

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6 Comments

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Profile Photo Elizabeth Fischer Laurie

This ties into much of the above, but is worth noting — it is important to make your employees feel welcome at work. I had a job years ago that was quite a bit below my education and skill level and paid horribly, but my supervisors made me like they were glad and even appreciative that I showed up at work each day. They fostered teams that enjoyed working with one another to make it feel like you were coming to a community collaborating to achieve the same goals. They stopped by my desk each day to say hello and frequently asked what they could do to make my job easier, better, more interesting, etc. At the time I did not realize how rare this kind of workplace is, but I do appreciate that I had such excellent role models.

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Profile Photo Mark Hammer

Ownership.

When people feel ownership of the work they do, and an identification with that work, or with the consequences of their work, I suspect they are more likely to stick with it. Conversely, if they are but a cog in a large wheel, without any sense of ownership, or valued expertise, well they can do that just about anywhere, can’t they?

There is a pervasive illusion that somehow if a project is divided up amongst enough people who are responsible for little bits of it, that efficiency will be achieved. If what is delegated to each is insufficient to foster a sense of valid ownership (i.e., meaningful portion X depends on me), you’ll probably lose all that efficiency to turnover.

I think we should also distinguish between “loyalty” and retention. They overlap, but are not isomorphic. Mitchell and Lee note that lots of folks leave jobs and workplaces they love, and stay in jobs they hate, working for people they loathe, for a lot of reasons. I’m one of those who feels loyalty is very important, both to me personally, and to causes. But one should not confuse the psychological loyalty people have to the mission, projects, and tasks, and any off-line effort/time they devote to thinking about it or innovating, with whether they punch in every day or not. There are plenty of ways to improve how many years of face time you get out of employees without much actual commitment from them.

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Profile Photo Hollie Jensen

Meaningful work is a way to show employees you respecet them and value their thoughts and imput. Assigning work becuase the employee has “capacity” to do the work is a lazy way to lead and is a slippery slope to a team that is dysfuntional. Be thoughtful and strategic about work assignments and ask for input and feedback this simple step will help you build trust and loyalty to the work and support the journey to creating a performing team.

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Profile Photo Maria M. Pelaez

I can not agree more with this four components: good communication, consistency, the opportunity to do great work and a decent, non-toxic manager. Four vital ingridients for loyal employees. Thank you.

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Profile Photo Abe Greenspoon

I agree with everything you wrote…all the way up until your last sentence!

I have seen way too many managers who became managers essentially because they hit a ceiling in their career and the only way up was to get staff. They were great at their job and always performed well as subject matter experts. But good at your job does not automatically equal good as a manager. I’ve seen so many terrible examples of this. It’s the Peter principle.

There are very specific skills (and you found 3 very good ones here) that are required for good managers. And you don’t learn those skills by knowing a lot about industry or the environment or finance or whatever field you work in.

That said, I love what you wrote about communication. I think honesty is so important. And consistent and frequent feedback. That’s another thing I feel isn’t practiced nearly enough.

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