Loyalty is an important attribute and perhaps one of the greatest virtues for companies in terms of employee engagement, as it is directly linked to the dreaded and much-discussed employee turnover rate. Before the pandemic, the focus of HR was on bringing this rate down, and now everyone is secretly hoping that one of the biggest positives of the horrific past year will be the elimination of this Sisyphean struggle. Indeed, it would be understandable if that were to happen, but that is not at all the trend that seems to be unfolding now, on the eve of the “great reopening”. Moreover, to make matters worse, it is precisely in key positions that loyalty is deteriorating.
The role of a loyal workforce
In times of recession, the number of jobs is falling and, with it, the supply of jobs also falls. In the face of this excessive demand, workers tend to respond by showing more appreciation for their current employer, thus demonstrating their gratitude that they do not need to look for a new job. But, as we have already seen, this crisis is not at all like the others. At the beginning of the year, many companies were caught by surprise by the wave of resignations that began, with the workers that employers would have expected to play a significant role in the new start leaving their positions. Managers and human resources staff were not really prepared for this, as in most cases, it was “loyal” workers who were affected. Moreover, they are usually tested in this respect and, well, there have never been any complaints about them. Only now there is a crisis. And that is when common sense sometimes disappears. Or it comes out! So many people say. Because under normal circumstance, people can and will devote energy to playing roles. It is no problem if one of those roles is that of the loyal worker. Saying, “Let the boss be happy.” Moreover, if the manager hasn’t spent enough time and energy exploring the employee’s true values, they should only blame themselves. After all, loyalty is not an absolute value by which everyone means the same thing, at least not in all cases.
Short term and long term
Everyone is loyal at certain intervals and for certain lengths of time. The question is always the source of loyalty. The most professionally accepted statement is that if you stay with a particular employer for a long time, you are a loyal employee. But this can be very misleading, because, for example, what if you keep moving to different jobs, different departments, and stay with the company for the variety? The most loyal employees are those who like to stay in one place. In other words, they are not necessarily chasing change, to put it mildly. Well, are they afraid of change, or are they loyal? Loyal because they fear change! They are the long-term loyal employees. Next to them, there are the short-term loyalists who pursue their own goals. As long as this goal coincides with the company’s goals, you won’t find a more loyal person than them. The problems only start when these goals diverge because then a colleague known for their high loyalty will be looking for a new job in no time. And because they become a key person in the company, their absence can mean a serious loss. But in the absence of a major crisis, they can play the role of the loyal employee for years, while concentrating on their own goals. But now there is a special situation. There is no time to play, no time to role-play, so everything is coming to the surface. Short-term loyalists are certainly already looking for new opportunities. And the second wave will come when the long-term loyalists realise that, since we are in a time of change, they should start looking for a better job.
Loyalty is an important quality, but in 2021 it will have to be doubly earned!