Loyal Employees and how to spot them

A generation ago, it was common to find people working their entire life with one company.  Post retirement, some even took up a part-time or advisory role with the same company.   Today’s employees are different.  Job hopping is much more common.  So, does that mean that employees have become less loyal?  Not really.  It’s just that there are many more opportunities available.  The previous generation often stuck to one job not because of a great sense of loyalty.  It was more from a lack of viable alternatives.  So, if sticking to one job is not loyalty, what is?  This article looks at some signs that an employee is loyal. 

So, the signs of a loyal employee are

Sign #1: They treat you like a person

This may sound odd, but a loyal employee will always treat you like a person.  To most employees, you’re not a person- you’re a boss.  Loyal employees understand that a leader is also a person- someone with insecurities, fears and bad days.  And they proactively work in getting work done while managing those issues.  That’s because they’re committed to the growth of the organization, the leader and themselves. And understand the link between all three.  Contrast being ‘treated like a person’ with ‘boss management’.  ‘Boss management’ is knowing how to keep a boss happy, irrespective of the output generated.  For instance, knowing what to say and give to the boss when he’s in a demanding mood.  And waiting for that mood to pass over.  In contrast, a loyal employee understands what’s happening and communicates with candour with the boss to try to make things better.  They understand that the boss is also human, a person affected by emotions and stressors.

Sign #2: They know when and where to add value

There are employees who’ll deliver when asked to.  They always wait for direction before doing something.  The key reason is CYA (Cover Your Ass) – the employee doesn’t want to risk doing something wrong.  So, they stay in their comfort zone till they receive explicit instructions to do something.  A lack of awareness of strategy, unclear roles and processes or previous bad experiences with taking initiative can cause such behaviour.  Even if your business has these issues, a loyal employee will find ways to make things happen.  They’ll know when and where to add value. 

Sign # 3: They are committed

A loyal employee stays despite knowing that they have other employment options.  Sometimes, better options.  An option which pays better or is a better brand name.  Loyal, committed employees continue working because they support your business’ strategy and objectives.  And they enjoy working with you and the organization.  This is different from employees who stay with your business because they don’t have options. Or they are not looking for employment elsewhere since they are in a comfort zone. 

Length of employment is no longer a measure for loyalty

Now that we’ve looked at the signs, let’s get a common myth out of the way.  Loyalty has nothing to do with the length of employment.  Absolutely nothing.  Consider a 15-year vintage company veteran who does just enough to justify his role.  But is a drag on company morale and does his best to make life difficult for new employees.  And is frequently cited by other employees as a cause for conflict in the workplace.  Contrast this with an employee who’s been around for a couple of years.  He does his work diligently, other employees like working with him and he produces good work.  Who’s more loyal?  The veteran employee certainly has more experience in the company.  Yet, I would argue that the employee who’s spent a couple of years in your company is more loyal.  Or at least, more committed. 

Closing thoughts

Long-serving employees who are disloyal can wreak havoc in an organization.  Since in most cases they know the promoter well, their perceived power in an organization is high.  They can throw their weight around.  Since they have much better access to the ‘grapevine’, a few well-placed pieces of gossip can destroy employee morale.

For such employees, it’s worth considering parting ways.  If they have been with you for a considerable period and don’t show any of the three signs of loyalty, then their experience doesn’t count for much.  Parting ways is likely best, both for the organization and the employee.  It’s a scary scenario for a promoter.  Training a new person to do the tasks which the long-serving employee performs is difficult.  Yet, for an organization, new ideas and new perspectives can emerge from new employees.  And can be the basis for your business growth.  For the employee, it forces them to get out of their comfort zone and keep learning.  Instead of spending a long period of time with one organization and then becoming unemployable.

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