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You’re Not Losing Employees Because They’re Disloyal, But Because You Are

If you can’t find a way to show employees they are valued, it won’t be long before their allegiance fades.

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BY Heather R. Huhman - 08 Mar 2018

You're Not Losing Employees Because They're Disloyal, But Because You Are

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

It's difficult to find great talent, and when you do, you surely want individuals who will stick around. But employees aren't feeling the love, and as a result, employee retention is suffering.

A December 2017 CareerBuilder survey of more than 3,600 employees found that 75 percent believe they're loyal to their company. Yet, only 54 percent feel their company is loyal to them. While many leaders think competitive pay and benefits are enough to show their dedication, true loyalty requires a lot more.

After seeing this shocking percentage, I decided to ask my own employees if -- and how -- they felt our leadership team was loyal to them. One aspect of loyalty they mentioned was that we have their backs, whether it's dealing with a tricky client or handling disagreements internally.

I have confidence in my employees and their abilities. So, it's only natural for me to go to bat for my team when someone treats them poorly. It's a major part of my leadership style.

If you can't find a way to show employees they are valued, it won't be long before their allegiance fades. Luckily, there are plenty of ways for employers to declare their loyalty.

1. Help them outside of the office.

Employees are complex beings, not just worker drones. Factors outside of the workplace will follow them to the office and impact their performance. Be a leader who will support them in every struggle.

Take Ximena Hartsock, for example. Hartsock is the co-founder and president of the Washington, D.C.-based digital advocacy platform Phone2Action. In the past, she offered a loan to an employee who was struggling financially. She also secured a lawyer for an employee who was having trouble with his work visa. Hartsock described both employees, who still work for her, as some of her best.

Don't just be loyal to the employee, but to the person behind the employee. The key is to focus on solutions that help eliminate stress and increase productivity without overstepping any boundaries.

For example, an employee might tell you they're having trouble finding a new apartment. Connecting them with a realtor you know is great. However, offering them a room in your house obviously crosses the line.

2. Recognize everyone equally.

Recognition is a big part of showing loyalty. If employees in different roles have access to more or better rewards, it signals that not everyone is valued equally.

It's for that very reason Jillian Bridgette Cohen, CEO and co-founder of the New York City-based virtual wellness and weight loss company, Virtual Health Partners, wanted to take a new approach. At most companies, only members of the sales team get business objective-based bonuses. Cohen decided it was better for her team if she tied everyone's performance to quarterly goals and rewarded them accordingly.

"This has helped to create unified goals, a culture of equality and also one in which everyone knows how important their job function is to the success of the business," Cohen said.

Find a process that recognizes all employees and works for your organization. Start by taking a look at the types of bonuses you offer. Does every employee have a chance to earn those rewards?

For example, if you only offer bonuses to employees who bring in new business, it's unfair to HR members who have no sales experience. Reframing the goal to focus on contributing to new business creates an equal opportunity. A member of HR might not convince a new client to sign, but maybe they created a new engagement strategy that better supports the sales team.

3. Be there through company struggles.

Loyalty suffers the most during hard times. Morale drops and employees wonder if their leaders really have their backs. For example, 15 years ago, Linda Adams, Denver-based author of The Loyalist Team, was the head of HR at a company going through layoffs.

After a particularly brutal day, Adams found a manager having trouble keeping it together. Seeing how much the stress of the situation was affecting employees, Adams brought her team together.

"I shared my unbelievable pride in them and the importance of caring for themselves and each other through this process," Adams said. "I asked what I could do better to get us through this tough time."

By recognizing her team's inner conflict and pain, Adams was able to be there for them. And although the layoffs were a grueling time, no member of the HR team left the company.

When times are tough, don't try to sugarcoat the situation. Allow employees to vent and be there to support them. This way, employees will know you always have their back.

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