Lately I have been thinking a lot about loyalty. Retaining a loyal, cohesive, and productive workforce is instrumental in running a successful business. However, recently many employers have told me they believe their employees lack loyalty and are not committed to the ongoing success of the organisation they work for, particularly in these unusual times. Before we start to question the commitment of our team, perhaps we need to look at the bigger picture. Are employees really disconnected, or are there other external factors at play? Perhaps the employer needs to do more to create a workplace culture that employees feel connected and loyal to.

The rule of reciprocity defines the underlying human need to give something back when something is received. This suggests that if you are loyal to people, people will be loyal back to you. Generally, employees are loyal, committed and want to be acknowledged for their contribution to the greater vision. This I have talked about on numerous occasions. But sometimes in our focus to drive planning, objectives, targets, goals, etc, we forget about the key employee needs that must be met to build loyalty. Employers must lay the groundwork. If they engage staff, support them, and understand the circumstances outside of work that may be impacting them, then they’re more likely to end up with loyal employees.

I was recently working with a client to fill a particularly difficult role and we began discussing the incumbent and why they had not been successful. Previously an engaged employee and a strong contributor, their performance had suffered over several months. When they finally handed in their resignation the employer was relieved. The employee was leaving to move interstate, even during COVID. With such dramatic changes going on, it became obvious circumstances had changed within the employee’s environment which he was responding to.

We discovered the employee was experiencing difficulties with family members interstate which had created constant interruptions and distractions. The candidate was quite happy working for the organisation and enjoyed the role. Resolving the challenges he was experiencing would allow him to return to being a high performer. We identified that by allowing the candidate to move interstate they could still complete their role while providing greater support to the family members. Physically being there would be less draining on their work performance. A role was created, and they successfully moved. Keeping this person within the company allowed the organisation to create greater value by retaining their experience and knowledge, while they contributed elsewhere and maintained key functional responsibilities for the duties they held within the organisation on a national basis. This was a win-win that created a great outcome. Digging a little deeper to understand personal circumstances does wonders for building employee trust and commitment.

So with this in mind, here are my tips for building and maintaining a loyal team:

• Provide a confident view of the future and a secure work environment, (as much as possible in the current situation) with a clear understanding of expectations from roles and how measurement will occur
• Make time to engage with and understand your people, on an ongoing basis
• Seek to gain insight to their ambitions, desires, anxieties, and fears (without asking invasive questions)
• Share the organisation’s visions and goals, successes and even the failures to your employees and explain the critical part they have in getting to the destination
• Acknowledge their contribution on an ongoing basis.

Now this won’t always work as I know there are exceptions to all rules. Some people will never be loyal, and some are simply in the wrong role! These exceptions can be filtered out though, which highlights another reason to ensure you define the behaviours you need for success in a role and the organisation, and when recruiting.

You ultimately need a successful organisation, no matter how this success comes about. Telling staff what success looks like and having confidence in the future goes a long way to being loyal to them. Explain their part in the bigger picture and acknowledge their contribution. The key thing is to create a working environment and culture employees want to be a part of and where they feel valued and understood. Get this right and you will be able to retain happy, engaged and loyal long-term employees.

Happy recruiting!
Ian Hamilton

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