Organizational loyalty is a symbiotic relationship for a season, that needs to work to the advantage of both parties.
As an HR Manager, I am often at the crossroads of an employee feeling frustrated with the perceived lack of opportunities they have in the workplace, and the capacity of an organization to absorb and help realize, the ambition of up and coming talent.
I remember watching the swimming relays at the Olympics and on a few occasions, we got to see the waiting athletes as they watched their race unfold. Their teammate is in the water, doing what they need to do. And the athlete is waiting their turn.
They are affected by what is happening in the water. When their team is falling behind, their task increases in importance and in pressure – recover the deficit or face defeat. When their team is ahead, they must maintain or increase the lead, but the pressure is different. Coming from a place of victory is far easier than coming from behind.
Organizations need young, inexperienced and passionate people, to push the envelope. To question the status quo before it smothers them. To redefine culture before it assimilates them. To look at old problems in new ways. And, of course, to provide a pipeline of talent and continuity of knowledge and experience over time, as older employees resign or retire.
It’s the slowness of the latter processes that creates the frustration; much like in the case of the waiting athlete.
What can these younger, passionate, upwardly mobile employees do to create organizational loyalty towards them? To foster a mindset where their needs are important to the company, and where the company will go the extra mile to support their ambition through training and development opportunities?
Well, firstly, there are never any guarantees, so nothing I say or suggest will create a safe place where your future is secure. But, most people with talent and self-belief aren’t looking for that, so that’s OK!. Organisational loyalty isn’t an impossible proposition. It’s also not a job-for-life proposition. It’s a symbiotic relationship for a season. And as with all symbiotic relationships, it needs to work to the advantage of both parties.
Secondly, there is no such thing, really, as organizational loyalty. Organizations are made up of people, and any loyalty that exists, exists between people, in their roles as stewards and custodians of a business, and as employees. It’s important to distinguish between personal loyalty and role-based loyalty.
Personal loyalty has a very limited lifespan in a business. It can’t be traded between people. And a manager will not risk his or her own credibility on personal loyalty. But role based loyalty, where a manager is increasing his or her credibility by investing in the right people and protecting his or her team’s talent base, is very tradeable. Its tradeable for the manager, and its tradeable for the employee. As a young employee, you need to develop role based loyalty, that can build credibility across teams and departments as your reputation for value within the business expands.
The only way to create any kind of loyalty from an organization side, towards an employee (and a young one with limited experience at that) is to demonstrate now and future value.
What is the value you bring to the organization? To illustrate how this may not be what you think it is, let me quote from Seth Godin, in a post entitled “Beyond Showing Up”:
“Your job is to surprise and delight and to change the agenda. Your job is to escalate, reset expectations, and make us delighted that you are part of the team”
Organizational loyalty is not created by doing what you are supposed to do. Not even by doing more than you are supposed to do. I worked for a company once whose ethos was “We don’t say thank you. Your salary is thank you”. Not surprisingly, they had excessively high staff turnover. But in part, they were right. Results = salary. It’s a natural equation. So the question is, “what” = loyalty?
Mostly, getting the job done is what anybody could do, and should do, and that doesn’t make anyone special. What makes someone special, as a young employee, is the capacity to shift mindsets and agendas, to change the outlook, to bring fresh ideas. To bring new blood. To add positive energy. To excite your leaders about the future you will help create. When Jack Welch blew up a factory as a young GE employee, rest assured they already knew what his potential was. That was why he didn’t get fired!
So what is your value proposition? What is the planned, expressed, clearly defined and unique thing that you bring to the workplace, that your team, your manager, and your company leaders don’t want to do without; and will go out of their way to keep?
THAT is your value proposition. THAT is what will create loyalty, as much as there can be, from your employer to you.
A short note on workplace politics, and workplace politicians. If you are one, then stop. Politics is both good and bad. Everyone need relationships to succeed. “Bad” politics is characterized by using people for personal gain. “Good” politics is characterized by using yourself for corporate gain. Politicians who trade in “bad” politics have no value to an organization and no value to their leaders. Because they are only ever about themselves. And, therefore, are essentially untrustworthy and unpredictable. “Bad” politics has no place in building a worthwhile value proposition.
You will have loyalty when the leaders of a company regard you as essential to its future. And that loyalty, for a season, will be the reason you receive training, experience development opportunities.
Core aspects of a personal value proposition:
It is internally driven, not situationally driven
It is firm, but not rigid. Adaptable, but not blown by every wind of change.
It appeals to your strengths as an employee, and to your team’s needs
It has longevity and demonstrates potential value far into the future.
It’s private, but clearly visible to anyone looking for it.
It’s about your value to others
Build it using input from people who know the business and know what the business needs.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons