Loyalty Requires Emotional Investment

Want loyalty? Invest emotionallY

Loyalty seems to be one of those ‘topic’ often brought up when employees of different generation talk about the workplace.

A good place to start this conversation is “what does loyalty mean”?

Most baby-boomer and Gen-X would define loyalty as the length of service,

Gen Y might probably wonder why are people so hung up about this topic because if they find the work meaningful, they will continue with the organization, while

Merriam Webster online dictionary defines it as ‘a feeling of strong support for someone or something’

If we adopt the perspective that every individual has a reasonable perspective then the above definitions, though differing, has a common thread; ‘the feeling of being valued’. The earlier generation grew up in an environment where jobs were scarce and the default value tend to be ‘job stability’. the newer generation on the other hand, grew up where job opportunity is in abundance and if there is no such opportunity, they would create it. There is a tendency for the newer generation to value ‘job fulfillment’.




In both cases, the focus is on the individual’s emotion. Their values drive their emotion. Recent studies have shown even the most ‘rationale’ decision making is bias. This leads us to believe our emotion has a greater impact to our work performance than we think. Ontological studies have shown that a person is his action, thinking and feeling. Alignment of these elements create an empowered person. This is further supported by studies in conflict where people are told not to make important decisions when they are angry. Why? Obviously their emotion gets in the way.

If we are to use length of service as an indicator of workplace loyalty, organizations can develop loyalty in their employees simply by creating an environment where people feel valued. The assumption here is their remuneration is on par with the market. Interestingly in small family-like organization where the remuneration might be lower than market, people stay because they feel valued. Point to ponder…..

Feeling valued goes beyond lip service as being taught in some leadership program under the category of ‘non-monetary incentives’. So how do we create it?

The challenge is always translating emotion into action. Why? Because an action can be linked to a number of emotions. For example, a person who constantly finish work before the deadline. From the person’s perspective, it could because he fears he might be overlooked for the next promotion or he fears people talk bad about him. Another person in the same shoe might interpret his action as fulfilling his potential and wanting to contribute to the organization. It is tempting for us to say “In that case, as leaders we should tell them to see it from the positive perspective”. Unfortunately what we know about adults are they need to be convinced of it, not ‘told what to do’.

Here are some practices that helps value an employee
Clear job description – Are you surprised?. A clear job description gives the employee a clear direction. Too often a leader unconsciously abuse the last statement in a jd: ‘any other task requested by your manager’. When a manager wants to get the employee to do a task outside of their routine, it is important to sit them down and give a detailed explanation. This will help the employee interpret your action as valuing them or just looking at them as an employee.
Opportunity to broaden experience – The younger generation is ‘knowledge rich, experience poor’. To be valued is to enable them to gain experience in different areas of interest. Have a clear process for lateral transfer either across department or business units. The more opportunities we can create within the organization, the more likely they will stay and have a better appreciation of the company. We should also help managers have a mindset shift to this approach because some managers view an employee moving to a different department as betrayal or not loyal. Managers need to take the view of being part of the organization and to realize the benefit to them, the organization and their employee
Develop processes that supports the employee, not the other way round – In the past, like a factory, employees are expected to follow the organization’s system. We are NOT saying do whatever the employees want. Rather, have a system that focuses on results (and timeline), let them know there are experts they can refer to and give them opportunity to ‘figure things out’. Equip manager NOT to jump in and fix the problem for the employees, rather have the manager use facilitative technique to help employees ‘figure things out’.
Constantly communicate and engage them – In a linear world, we assume if an employee is ok, they will be ok and we only need to tend to them when things don’t go right. Unfortunately, linear world only exist in text book. the real world is in constant flux. Managers need to consciously engage their employees and I don’t mean that once or twice a year performance appraisal. Why? The purpose of performance appraisal is to ultimately align an employee to achieve the organization’s results. So if we are using this platform to engage them, we might get into a fix because they can smell out ‘insincerity’. For this to be effective, managers need to observe and understand their employee’s preferred style because some employees love to communicate over a cuppa while others prefer a more formal setting.
Create an appreciative culture – Finally, culture is merely a collection of habits. Habits happen when we start doing things automatically/ unconsciously. Organization culture must be driven from the top. Perhaps for starters, senior leaders can be encouraged to thank employees whenever they bum into them. Arrange for coffee or lunch sessions where senior leaders interact with the employees. Make the event optional because forcing people to attend an event definitely won’t make them feel valued. Video record speeches of your senior leaders addressing employees in terms of how well the organization is performing and linking this performance to the efforts the employees put into the company.
I hope you benefit from this short sharing of mine. My purpose is to ’empower communities to make positive changes’ by sharing and caring. My passion is in developing caring organizations. Feel free to comment as I believe your comments will enrich me as I continue to empower others.

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