Does Loyalty Have a Spot at the Table in Modern Companies?
It can be really frustrating as a job seeker to have an interviewer ask "why have you moved around so much?" Of course you'd like to say what you feel, but that won't go over well, so you come up with some other answer that is "interview correct".
But really, why do many of us move around so much these days? There are some obvious answers; layoffs, bad leadership, termination, poor fit, better opportunity, etc., etc. I happen to believe that there are deeper underlying reasons and that the above are but the symptoms. Loyalty (or lack thereof) being the primary reason!
Call me old fashioned, naïve, idealistic or all of the above, but I'm a huge fan of loyalty. People will help you move your belongings over an entire weekend for nothing more than a cold beer and a few slices of pizza. Is it good will, no, it's loyalty.
I love this quote on loyalty by Charles Jones
How is Loyalty Destroyed by the Average Company?
Loyalty is destroyed because we are too busy thinking about making the numbers this quarter. Unfortunately, missing the numbers is really the answer, but I'll provide some detail to help explain why.
The above quote by Charles Jones really says it all, the problem lies in how we as leaders "think" we're doing something, when in reality we are only "saying" it. That's correct, most often with loyalty, customer service, and other behavior oriented qualities most of us talk about it, but don't actually live it. Loyalty isn't something you talk about, it's something you do. It doesn't matter whether the situation is hard or even if your job is on the line, you're either loyal or you're not. Unfortunately, if you're not, the people that work with you figure that out quickly.
Even when we think we're being loyal, we compromise ourselves by not being prepared. We are driven by the quarterly number and all else can be sacrificed if it helps meet that number. Using quarters to drive our businesses, instead of real drivers associated with who and what makes you successful in the long term is where we're failing.
That's Right, People Make our Companies Successful
So, if people make us successful, why are people always the first to get Sh!# on? If you thought you were going to be a little short of funds next month would you dump one of your kids or maybe stop payment on your child support? No, any sane mother or father wouldn't do that, so why do we think it's OK in a company.
I realize we're not a welfare state, and I'm not advocating that we become one. I don't believe in letting people keep their jobs whether they perform or not, quite the contrary. What I do suggest is that if you really want to get the benefit your people have to offer, then you need to give something in return. I worked at HP towards the end of the Bill & Dave period when employees are talked about and treated like family and layoffs were virtually unheard of. Unfortunately, many of our leaders at the time misinterpreted the "we are a family" motto into believing "we never hurt anyone". The simple problem was a failure to recognize that even your own mother and father can bring the hammer down, but it doesn't stop them from loving you. In fact, by bringing the hammer down but still providing you with food to eat and a place to live they are demonstrating loyalty to you and your future. I really believe that Bill & Dave were the "parent" type of leaders.
What Can We Do to Fix Our Companies?
We need to invest in our people and by "investing" I mean more than just pay them fairly or occasionally provide them some training. As leaders we need to help our teams see the company's future and correspondingly their future as well. If your team knows they will be a part of the future and they'll be given the tools to succeed in that future, they will pay you back in ways that can't be measured by the simple difference between "internal" salary and the "outsourced" equivalent.
Teach your leadership team to demonstrate loyalty, even when it hurts. By doing this you'll not only gain the trust of your teams, but you'll be forced to think ahead about where the business is going and how market changes might affect your employees. Thinking ahead seems to be one of the toughest choices for most enterprises. Don't get me wrong, I know that most companies create a business plan, but generally speaking it's focused on how big we're going to grow and which products and markets will get us to that growth. Little attention if any is placed on how we'll manage our people forward. If you don't want to take my word for all this, all you have to do is look at Google. They pay better salaries for coders than most companies do, and the majority of their employees live and work in some of the most expensive markets in the world.
So, give loyalty another try. The ROI for loyalty might not be easy to put together for the CFO, but there are hundreds of examples in the world of leaders who have grown incredible companies with outstanding long term employees, through loyalty.