If you’ve been keeping up on recent studies and news, you’ll know that the world of work is changing dramatically. Once upon a time, loyalty was a mutual desire for employees and organizations. Employees wanted to just stay with their organizations until retirement, slowly working their way up the corporate ladder. Human Resources (HR) departments revolved their initiatives – recognition programs, benefits, perks, etc. – around keeping employees around for the long-run (e.g., years of service parties and gifts).
Things are picking up fast though. All over the internet, you’ll now find advice from thought leaders and career experts telling you not to stay in a job too long. The specific advice varies but experts say that most people are now staying in jobs for only two to five years. Some are only staying in their organizations for that long.
So, should the goal of leadership and organizations still be to keep people around longer? No, but loyalty should still be a goal. Loyalty does not always equate to staying with an organization for a long period of time. Loyalty can mean that even when an employee leaves your organization, they rave about it. They said their best coworkers, friends and acquaintances to work for your organization. They recommend you with sincerity and passion. They might even return one day if the right opportunity presents itself in your organization.
Organizations need to focus on providing opportunities for people. Opportunities include much more than promotion into a management position:
- Lateral transfers allow employees to learn new skills and do a new job.
- Promotional opportunities don’t always have to be into management. Create senior level positions for employees who excel at what they do and want to continue doing it at a higher level.
- Sending employees to conferences allows them to expand their knowledge and network with other professionals.
- Sending employees back to school to get a new degree shows your investment in their future.
- Giving employees special projects that challenge and mean something to them will help them grow and help the organization grow.
- Providing specialized and meaningful training for employees helps them gain confidence in doing their jobs better.
These are just a few examples of how to provide opportunities within your organization to great employees. The idea is to focus on help employees achieve their personal career goals. Leaders often fear that if they offer these opportunities, employees will leave the organization. This is totally possible but it is not what management should be focusing on. As I mentioned, it’s the new reality that employees will be switching jobs and companies more often. Your goal should not be to keep employees around longer but to grow them and gain their loyalty.
You won’t always have the right job for the right employees at the right time. They may leave but if you don’t offer them opportunities to learn and grow while they are with you, you may be closing the door on them so that they never come back. That’s where leaders and organizations fail: not maintaining an alumni network.
Some of the opportunities I mentioned allow employees to network with other professionals. Leverage the relationships they build at these events. They may be meeting amazing people who are willing and ready to take their places once they leave your organization. Make sure you give them a reason to recommend your organization and your leaders to other great professionals. As times change, we need to change our definition of loyalty from a time commitment to a value commitment. To maintain loyalty that means something more than time, we must provide employees opportunities and play a role in their professional growth and success.