Seek employee engagement, not loyalty

When people talk about loyalty in the workplace, it evokes images of a bygone era. The worker of 1950 for example, put in his (not her) eight hours a day, got a ham from the boss every Thanksgiving, could count on a promotion after hitting the 10-year mark, and a pension and party in his honor when he retired after 30 years of dedication. To previous generations, this scenario likely sounds like a warm, safe blanket wrapping their lives in security and comfort. But to many Millennials, who will comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025 according to Forbes, it sounds more like a straightjacket.

Which is just one of the reasons why employee – and employer – loyalty as it existed in previous generations is gone. Globalization and the paradox of choice have shifted society from one that preferred stability to one that prefers experience. The only thing that feels constant today is the rapid rate at which the world – and the organizations in it – are changing. The employee of today does not seek long-term security from their employer because they can’t count on it and the employer of today does not seek a long-term commitment from an employee because they’ve learned they can’t expect it.

What both want is engagement, today’s version of workplace loyalty.

Engagement vs. loyalty

It’s important to distinguish employee loyalty from employee engagement. A loyal employee is faithful, feels bonded to an organization and carries a sense of devotion towards it. They are invested in the organization and willing to make personal sacrifices for its benefit.

An engaged employee takes loyalty a step further – he or she is enthusiastic and works with passion. They are profoundly connected to an organization and take positive action to carry it further and forward.

For today’s organizations, employee engagement can be considered more advantageous than the employee loyalty of the past. According to a benchmark study by Temkin Group, highly engaged employees are:

  • 2.5 times more likely to work late if something needs to be done
  • Three times more likely to do something good for the company out of their scope of responsibilities
  • More than two times more likely to help someone at work even if not asked

Engaged employees can also lead to engaged customers. Employees who love the brand they sell automatically provide a better brand experience. They’re also partly responsible for the level of customer-focus in your organization because they truly care about their interactions with your customers.

Gallup tracks employee engagement daily, and at the time this article was written, only about 33% of the American workforce was engaged. That figure, while it seems low, is representative of the average – the percentage of engaged employees hasn’t risen above 40% since Gallup began tracking it in 2014.

Who makes up the other 67% of your workforce? Disengaged employees who come in just to punch the clock, lack passion and energy for their work and actively disengaged employees who aren’t just checked out of their job – they’re toxic, act out and work to sabotage productivity and morale.

According to an estimate by Gallup, actively disengaged employees cost US organizations between $450 and $550 billion on turnover, recruitment and lost revenue from customers who aren’t receiving good service from this subset of your workforce.

Foster employee engagement

You’re likely thinking about examples of each employee that exist in your own organization right now – perhaps on your own team. How have engaged employees help you succeed? How have disengaged employees held you back?

ArchPoint CEO, Jesse Edelman, offers advice on creating an engaged workforce.

  • Be as transparent as you can be about the business. Showing that you trust your employees isn’t just the right thing to do – by knowing the successes, goals and even issues of the business, it provides a sense of purpose and an opportunity to contribute.
  • Give them an opportunity to talk. Let people talk about what they do, what they want to do and ensure that they understand the impact of their work (big or small) on the business. It’s becoming an increasing belief in the business community that today, people leave managers not companies and providing an avenue for open communication is critical to developing relationships.
  • Lead with humility. In every way possible, I try to make sure that we always talk about success in terms of the team. I am nothing without the team that we’ve built. This is important to building a relationship of mutual respect, in which employees feel they can be creative and innovative – two key indicators of an engaged employee.

As a long-time – and engaged – ArchPoint employee, I can testify that Jesse’s advice is accurate. Transparency, humility and open communication on the work are important factors to keeping employees engaged in the work. But I’ll offer one more piece of advice based on personal experience. Be as engaged in your employee as you want your employee to be in your organization. I’m not just talking about the job or career paths here – I mean truly engaged in your employees as people. Be interested in what’s going on in their lives, understanding when they may be going through rough times, listen to their goals beyond what they hope to achieve at the organization.

If there is one thing to take away from this piece, it is this: work to make your employees feel like they are an integral part of the organization. If they can see themselves as just as much part of the team as their leaders, they will be more engaged – and both employee and employer will benefit as a result.

Jesse Edelman is ArchPoint CEO and President, Sourcing & Supply Chain. Jesse helps clients in strategy development, sales effectiveness, customer management, go-to-market execution and product innovation and sourcing. Click here to contact Jesse.

 Blaze Petersen is a consultant with ArchPoint Consulting and contributing writer for the ArchPoint blog. Click here to contact Blaze.

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