Employee Loyalty Or Leadership Loyalty? What’s The REAL Issue?, Ep #8
10 min

Employee loyalty is a hot topic these days. A quick Google search I did for the term “workplace loyalty” resulted in over 300 million results. But when filtered by the terms “employee loyalty” and “leadership loyalty,” over 75% of the results showed that people are searching for solutions to the issue of employee loyalty to the organization. But is that the real place of concern?

I believe that each of us as leaders need to rethink our working definition of “employee loyalty.” And I use that phrase “working definition” very specifically.

Listen to hear how my experience as a leadership development contractor has changed my view of both employee loyalty and leadership loyalty - and to discover what you can do as a leader to create mutually meaningful work engagements.

Employee Loyalty: A New Definition

My experience in leadership development, working alongside many teams has lead me to a definition of employee loyalty that is a bit different than what you might expect. Try this on for size:

EMPLOYEE LOYALTY: The amount of effort an employee puts in to achieve a particular organizational goal, initiative, or objective during the time they are pursuing such goal, initiative, or objective.

Notice a few things about my definition:

There is no mention of how long the employee is expected to be at the company

Nothing about the amount of time they are to put in while engaged in the initiative

Neither is there anything mentioned about the timing of their departure

And it definitely doesn’t include anything about how much crap they are expected to deal with during their time

My definition of employee loyalty focuses only on their dedication to their efforts toward achieving the organizational goals during the time frame in question.

Why is this important? Because it reflects both the realities of the modern working world and puts the onus of responsibility for their loyalty (as it were) where it belongs - on their leader. Keep listening/reading. I really want you to get this.

Leadership Loyalty: The missing part of the conversation

With all the zeal to talk about employee loyalty out there, it’s not surprising that we don’t hear much about leadership loyalty. But I think it’s at the heart of the bigger issue. Here’s another definition:

LEADERSHIP LOYALTY: The amount of effort a leader puts into an employee to help them achieve their goals - both personal and professional - during the time they are associated with them.

It’s not uncommon to hear gurus talk about leaders investing in employees on both personal and professional levels. It’s part of good leadership that’s become fairly common knowledge. But that next part - the part about it being for the time the leader is ASSOCIATED with the employee, that’s where we can find great insight.

A leader is a leader, 24/7. Said another way, leadership is not confined to the time the employee is on the clock. Leaders are loyal to employees by encouraging, supporting, and equipping them both inside and outside of work hours. This is one of the key factors to producing mutually meaningful relationships that enable the levels of loyalty all of us want to experience. And it goes both ways.

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4 ways leaders can improve employee loyalty

At my company, Contracted Leadership, we have a laundry list of strategies and skills we regularly focus on to help leaders maximize the leadership skills that make an employee's experience under their leadership wonderful. But for the sake of time on this podcast, I only cover a handful...

  1. Don’t inadvertently bait employees onto the team

No leader wants to promise things they can’t deliver on. But we often do so without knowing it. For example: don’t mention promotions without making it clear that it’s a possibility or a hope, and not a guarantee. You want honesty to govern every interaction, so employees know you want the best for them, and are working toward it within the limitations you have as the leader of the organization.

  1. Establish and keep an open dialogue

Commit to transparency with your employees. They need to know what’s really going on related to their role in the organization. When they do, they’ll be more apt to share their own fears, struggles, and aspirations with you as their leader.

  1. Establish a basic awareness

Don’t think of team members as cogs in the wheel, or even as your most valuable resource. Always think of them as people - and that as such they have their own unique personal and career goals. The more you can serve those goals, the greater their loyalty will be.

  1. Approach every day as if it were decision day

Don’t wait until a crisis situation before you work to retain an employee in their role. See every day as that important day of decision, when that team member is deciding to stay with your organization or to move on. This kind of mindfulness communicates value every day and engenders trust in the day to day interactions you have.

Employee loyalty has definitely taken on a new face these past 10 years or so, and we rightly attribute it to cultural shifts that have taken place. But those shifts are not isolated to the way employees think about their roles and the organizations they serve. The shifts also relate to the things they expect to receive from those who lead them. Maybe it’s time for a closer look at leadership loyalty.

Outline of This Episode
  • [1:17] Are employees loyal? Is that the issue?
  • [2:22] Evaluating the working definition of “employee loyalty”
  • [6:44] Suggestions for how to embrace leadership loyalty
Resources & People Mentioned Connect With Bruce

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