Is staff loyalty a thing of the past?

Career LadderThere’s been a lot of talk lately about how staff loyalty has vanished from the employment relationship by both employees and their employers.

Back in the day, as the story goes, a job was for life, employers treated workers like family and in return employees gave their unquestioned loyalty, thankful for having a job. There was a bond between management and employees that went beyond day-to-day productivity. We worked for our employer everyday and rarely considered moving elsewhere without significant justification, preferring to play it safe and stick with what we know.

Fast forward 30 years…

“When you are talking about staff loyalty in the workplace, you have to think about it as a reciprocal exchange. My loyalty to the firm is contingent on my firm’s loyalty to me.”

That’s the view of management professor Adam Cobb.

Cobb, as well as other pundits, sees the 1980s as the beginning of the end for worker loyalty.

Wharton management professor Matthew Bidwell sees growth of the global marketplace as a contributing factor. “There is a tremendous amount of competition, both domestically and internationally, which has forced firms to be more nimble with respect to hiring and firing,” says Guay. “It is now a two-way street: Employees recognise that firms are not going to be able to offer lifetime employment, and companies recognise that employees will feel free to move around.” Social and business networking plus the explosion of available information on companies and career paths have helped that process along. “In the last 10 or 20 years, it has become so much easier to find jobs in other industries or regions than it was 10 or 20 years ago when we didn’t have the Internet,” he notes.

Management has its work cut out.  Arguably, employee engagement and staff loyalty are inextricably tied to each other and Gallup surveys conducted between 2000 and 2011 show that employee engagement has not changed much from year to year and has remained low throughout that period:

  • 26-29% of employees were engaged
  • 52-56% not engaged
  • 18-19% were actively disengaged and negatively influenced work associates

London’s undervalued workers becoming less loyal

If we take a closer look at London, for example, businesses in the capital are at risk of losing staff as workers feel increasingly undervalued, according to new research from recruitment specialists, Brook Street.

Staff loyalty missingThe survey, which was conducted with over 1,000 London workers as part of Brook Street’s Survive & Thrive London campaign, found that 79% of London employees are open to new job offers, while one in five are actively looking for a new job whilst already employed.

Over the last year, the majority of Londoners (68%) have battled with heavier workloads and tasks beyond the remit of their job description. But only 34% have had their effort rewarded in the form of a pay rise and even less, just 15%, have been promoted.

Over half (54%) of workers feel taken for granted by their employers and are taking the decision to look for work elsewhere.

 “It would seem that the recession has lulled businesses into a false sense of security about London’s workforce. There is a presumption that because of the negative effects of the downturn, employees will work all hours for less money and if they don’t, they can be easily replaced. This presumption couldn’t be more wrong; employees have worked hard and they know what they are worth.”

Erika Bannerman, Sales & Marketing Director of Brook Street.


So what can be done to improve staff loyalty?

Study after study has shown what makes people stay with their current employer. Here is a checklist:

  • recognition for accomplishment
  • interesting, challenging work
  • opportunities for advancement and learning
  • collegial workforce
  • fair compensation
  • respected management
  • feeling like a valued member of the team
  • a substantial benefits package
  • the feeling their work “makes a difference”
  • overall pride in the company’s mission and its products

According to HR Morning editorial writer Tim Gould, here’s a rundown of the things the experts say resonate most with employees — and make them want to stick around:

Clear expectations. Workers want to know exactly what they’re responsible for, and what they’ll be judged on.

A sense of control. Employees need to feel they have the power to decide how their jobs can be completed — and the freedom to suggest how tasks can be simplified or streamlined.

Feeling they’re “in the loop.” Employees not only wish to know – and have input on – what’s going on in their department, but what’s happening in the business as a whole.
They want to be secure in their understanding of how what they do on a day-to-day basis fits into the overall operation — now and in the future.

Room to grow. These include potential promotions, extra training, learning new skills and the possibility of using those new skills in a different area of the company.

Recognition. Everyone wants to know their extra effort won’t go unnoticed — or unrewarded.

Leadership. Employees want to be led by people they trust. And the people they trust are those who value workers’ contributions and act with employees’ best interests in mind.


To attract and retain the most talented workers, many employers have offered workplace accommodations that cater to employees’ needs including working remotely, flexible schedules, a relaxed dress code, etc.  These accommodations are meant to meet the needs of an ever changing workforce and thus increase staff loyalty (although tell that to Yahoo!).

Staff loyalty will never be what it used to be, but management must stay vigilant in addressing employee needs as outlined above in order to keep loyalty as high as possible. This will enhance the employer’s standing (both in the community as an ‘employer of choice’ and have an impact on the bottom line success of the company) as well as reduce turnover.

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