People Magazine

Is employee loyalty a thing of the past?

employee loyalty
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Employee loyalty has changed definitions.

Millennials are loyal to a task, not a job.

There are pros and cons for both types of loyalty.

Check out these strategies to keep the best performing employees.

When is the last time you handed out a gold watch for an employee that has been with the company for 50 years?

Probably never, although that used to be the norm. Some people say employee loyalty is a thing of the past. However, that might not be entirely true. Instead, the definition of employee loyalty might be changing.

Employee loyalty’s definition has changed

Millennials seem to be more loyal to values rather than to a specific company. In fact, Gallup reports that Millennials are three times more likely to have changed jobs in the past year compared to other generations. Likewise, Inc. reports that 60 percent of Millennials are open to a different job opportunity.

It’s safe to say the definition of loyalty has shifted. Increasingly, workers are defining loyalty as related to a specific task, not their overarching job.

Millennials report that they are hired to do a certain task. They’re happy to learn to do this task to the best of their ability. However, once that task is mastered, they crave something new. This “something new” might be a different task, job, or a promotion for a job well done. They don’t care if the new task comes from their current employer or someone else. In their eyes, their “job” is complete. They were “loyal” to the task at hand.

Importance of employee loyalty: millennials think differently

Employee loyalty might be changing its definition, but it remains important. The traditional idea of loyalty—sticking with a job for a long time—might be considered important because:

  1. It costs employers a lot of money to train someone new. A low turnover rate means employers save money on training. Managers have peace of mind knowing the employees they trust will likely be there for a long time.
  2. It ruffles fewer feathers. A lot of people might get stressed with a high turnover rate. Coworkers, managers, and stakeholders prefer it when things are “as they should be.”
  3. Employees might feel like they have job security. In the past, being with a company a long time meant your chances of getting fired were slim. However, this isn’t necessarily true for younger generations who saw the Great Recession.

Pros and cons of various employee loyalties

That’s one definition of employee loyalty. The newer definition, that of mastering a task and considering yourself loyal, also has benefits:

  1. Workers are motivated to master a task. If the goal is to learn and master a task, Millennials are tackling this challenge with gusto. This ensures well-rounded and skilled employees are in the market.
  2. It keeps the workplace challenging. Millennials are excited about learning new tasks. This means there’s an energy in the workplace that can be inspiring.
  3. Workplaces are kept fresh. Workplaces can easily get stale with the same people and mentalities day after day. A higher turnover rate due to the new definition of loyalty can shake things up.

Ultimately, managers want to keep the higher performing employees and allow the lower performers to move on.

Why key strategies matter

If you’re a manager and you want to skew employee loyalty to your advantage, there are some steps to take. First, know the employee value proposition (EVP) for every position. Is the person in that role the best fit? Next, maximize employee performance reviews. Know where every employee wants to be and help them get there.

Finally, consider three years as the “long term plan timeframe” for employees. Where do they want to be in three years? Where do you want them to be? Not everyone wants to get promoted or stick with the company. The more you know about their game plan, the better you can adjust yours.


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