Is loyalty an unlearnable trait, or something that is built?
Human Resources and Talent Acquisition leaders worldwide are keen to find loyal employees. Every business wants to prove stable and consistent when it comes to operations, management and leadership. To do so requires a bedrock of committed staff.
Traditional loyalty is perceived as something inherent, a value that will not rear its head until a certain amount of time has been invested in a company by an employee. By this definition, the time that you spend somewhere is commensurate with your devotion to your company. Using this logic, loyalty-seeking hiring managers will often look to prospective employees’ previous experience, giving points for the consecutive years they have racked up at other companies.
This is an outdated practice. To meet changing expectations and acquire committed talent, recruiters and hiring managers should consider extending their definition of what it means to be truly loyal.
“Traditional loyalty is perceived as something inherent, a value that will not rear its head until a certain amount of time has been invested in a company by an employee.”
Very few careers are for life these days. But does that mean loyalty is dying? The answer, in short, is no.
An assumption often made by hiring managers is that loyalty primarily concerns time invested. While it is true that the amount of time an employee spends at an organisation is an indicator of a person’s commitment to a role, to think of it as the sole criterion for being considered loyal is a fallacy.
True loyalty involves engagement and the shape in which said engagement presents itself. While looking for loyal candidates, hiring managers should set the time a candidate has spent at an organisation against other important loyalty-related traits – such as productivity, authenticity, transparency and a willingness to help others.
To put it more succinctly – loyalty is more closely related to an employee’s current attitude than it is to the length of time they have stuck around.
Imagine a fictional employee who has worked at an organisation for twenty years. During the first ten years they work hard on all fronts, contributing to the wider success of the organisation. They foster growth in junior staff and cement themselves among senior leadership as a trustworthy and productive employee.
The situation evolves. For the next ten years they coast, losing interest in their project work and gradually checking out. They stop training junior staff, eschew additional responsibilities and work in silo whenever possible.
Is this person a loyal employee? If we consider time spent in their position as the only barometer of success, then yes. But if we look at the wider context and consider performance, no.
True loyalty requires consistent performance. The tangible way that an employee shows loyalty is in how they do their job. Hiring managers’ focus should be on how supportive a prospective employee has been towards their organisation before and, more importantly, how engaged and enthusiastic they are right now.
“While looking for loyal candidates, hiring managers should set the time a candidate has spent at an organisation against other important loyalty-related traits – such as productivity, authenticity, transparency and a willingness to help others.”
Context is Important
Assessing a candidate’s loyalty requires proper due diligence. As is the case with most hiring-related matters, context is vitally important.
Maybe the fictional employee we previously mentioned hit a ceiling limit at their company. Perhaps they were given little room to progress in their career and encountered personal roadblocks along the way. A hiring manager should look to find out what changed in the second half of their tenure that caused a slump and changed their outlook towards their job.
Those working in talent acquisition should avoid immediately writing off candidates who have stayed in previous jobs for longer than they should have. There is always a reason, and it may align well with the position being hired for. What our fictional employee needs to flourish and become loyal once more may be ample room to grow, and that could be exactly what a hiring manager’s job offers.
Finding Quality Talent that Sticks
The onus is on the employer to create a work environment that cultivates loyalty because the reality is that loyalty is in no way an innate, unteachable quality. It is an earned one; on the side of both employer and employee.
Employers must hold up their end of the bargain to ensure that employees show longer-term support because a truly loyal employee is one who remains consistent, productive, authentic and transparent irrespective of the years they have given to a company. If an employee’s needs are not met, the likelihood of this happening will plummet.
To find talent that proves loyal, HR and Talent Acquisition managers should focus on candidates who are productive, high-achieving and contribute a lot to their current company first – and then look at their tenure.
Focusing on the present and future is more important than looking at the past. Understanding why an employee is leaving (or open to leaving) a longer-term role is important, but so is understanding their personal ambitions and drive.
Loyalty is manifested in many ways, but you can only create a loyal employee by matching the right person with the right role. An organisation must be able to meet the longer-term needs of the candidate if they have any chance of creating a loyal relationship.
Investing in staff and being transparent are surefire, proven ways to increase loyalty. Fair compensation is a good starting point, but it is not the ultimate solution. Recognising and rewarding staff via other avenues is important too. Auditing your culture, giving more control, removing bad apples and hiring more referrals will all help to boost employee morale and loyalty.
In the end, employee loyalty is about increasing the positive emotions that an employee holds and decreasing the negative ones. That is the goal. Making it known and, more importantly, showing that the way staff members feel is important to your organisation will increase your chances of cultivating loyal and happy employees in the long term.