The following is a guest post by Jeremy Kingsley.
Lack of loyalty is a serious problem in organizations everywhere today.
No longer do people join a company and devote the rest of their working lives to it. Companies are, of course, not exactly known for offering up thirty or forty years of employment, a gold watch and pension plan.
Times have changed. Businesses appear and disappear at a dizzying pace. So do the jobs they offer. People no longer expect to spend their working lives with the same company.
Organizations preoccupied with short-term, bottom line thinking often view their employees as little more than resources to be hired, fired, and manipulated as the need arises.
Both sides pay a price for this lack of loyalty. Workers are naturally less happy on the job when they sense little or no loyalty from their employer. I agree with Carmine Coyote about how the negative impacts on productivity are truly alarming:
- People expect to be continually under threat of layoff, so they keep their resumes permanently on the market, changing jobs without concern for anything save their own short-term advantage.
- Because they see executives cheerfully raiding the corporate coffers to enrich themselves, any natural unwillingness to engage in cheating or manipulating rules to put extra money in their own pockets is lessened.
- Top level emphasis on quick, short-term returns (especially to themselves), permeates the organization as a whole, leading to everyone focusing on what will give them the biggest, quickest return—even if that means elbowing colleagues out of the way, playing the dirty politics, or hyping resumes to leverage a quick move somewhere else that is paying a few bucks more.
- Loyalty to colleagues can turn into an us-versus-them attitude toward those higher up.
- Worst of all, people feel devalued and see their work as less and less worthwhile. This creates emotional and psychological stresses and problems that go beyond the workplace and may last for some time.
What can you do to avoid this terrifying outcome? Learn from others.
A century ago, Ernest Shackleton was one of the most renowned explorers of his time. He was a member of Captain Randolph Scott’s Discovery Expedition to the Antarctic in 1901–04 and led the Nimrod Expedition to the Antarctic in 1907-09, when he and three companions marched farther south than any human had ventured before. He was knighted by the king of England for that effort.
Today, however, Shackleton is best known for a failed mission. In January 1915, while trying to be the first to journey across the Antarctica, he and his men aboard the Endurance were trapped in pack ice in the Weddell Sea and forced to abandon the ship. They floated on icebergs and paddled three small lifeboats to reach a remote, deserted island.
From there, Shackleton and five men embarked in one of the lifeboats on an eight-hundred-mile voyage through some of the planet’s stormiest waters, landing more than two weeks later at South Georgia Island in the South Atlantic. After a rest, Shackleton and two of his men hiked and climbed across treacherous mountains to a whaling station, where Shackleton procured a ship and sailed to rescue his comrades. Every member of the twenty-eight-man crew returned home safely.
Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capprell, in their book “Shackleton’s Way”, list eight principles Shackleton applied to forge unity and loyalty among his team. As a leader, Shackleton was ahead of his time. His principles are just as important in today’s modern workplace as they were in the Antarctic a hundred years ago:
- Take the time to observe before acting, especially if you are new to the scene. All changes should be aimed at improvements. Don’t make changes just for the sake of leaving your mark.
- Always keep the door open to your staff members, and be generous with information that affects them. Well-informed employees are more eager and better prepared to participate.
- Establish order and routine on the job so all workers know where they stand and what is expected of them. The discipline makes the staff feel they’re in capable hands.
- Break down traditional hierarchies and cliques by training workers to do a number of jobs, from the menial to the challenging.
- Where possible, have employees work together on certain tasks. It builds trust and respect and even friendship.
- Be fair and impartial in meting out compensations, workloads, and punishments. Imbalances make everyone feel uncomfortable, even the favoured.
- Lead by example. Chip in sometimes to help with the work you’re having others do. It gives you the opportunity to set a high standard and shows your respect for the job.
- Have regular gatherings to build esprit de corps. These could be informal lunches that allow workers to speak freely outside the office. Or they could be special holiday or anniversary celebrations that let employees relate to each other as people rather than only as colleagues.
Another, more contemporary example of how garnering the loyalty of your employees can benefit your organization can be seen in the example of trucking firm Southeastern Freight Lines. The company had made a profit each year for more than fifty years, but like everyone else, faced hard choices when the economy contracted. Southeastern’s owners and leaders decided that their people came before profits.
They established a plan to avoid layoffs, even though it might lead to financial losses for a period of time. If they had decided to institute a five percent pay cut and stopped the 401k match like many of their competitors, they could have come up with over 22 million dollars! They would have ended 2009 in the black. But loyalty to the workers and their well being was more important to the owners than the company’s back account.
I talked to a Southeastern employee after the plan was announced. He said the appreciation among workers within the company was unbelievable. Today, attitude and morale at the company are at an all-time high.
Strong leadership inspires strong loyalty.
If you demonstrate a strong measure of loyalty to your team, you’ll find that same measure of loyalty being returned to you. In these trying times – inspiring loyalty will help you get the most out of your team and lay the foundation for lasting success.
Jeremy Kingsley is a professional speaker and the President of OneLife Leadership. He is also the author of four books, including his upcoming book “Inspired People Produce Results” slated for release in March 2013. To learn more about Jeremy and his writings, visit his website at www.jeremykingsley.com.