Loyalty is a word often used in the business world today.

Airline promotions offer free travel miles if a preferred credit card is used. Many business advertisements offer rebates or discounts on items purchased at retail stores or entertainment venues. These companies understand the value of attracting and keeping customers.

Research has shown that it’s much less expensive to develop loyalty programs that keep customers coming back than it is to find new ones.

While organizations are rightly focused on their customers, sometimes they fail to provide a workplace culture that promotes employee loyalty to the company.

Let’s look at a few ways that loyalty can be built into the ethos of the enterprise.

Attachment

When recruiting employees, it’s important that the company understand what needs the applicants believe the job will fulfill for them.

Some job seekers will focus on compensation, others on the product or service offered and others will be seeking a workplace where the emphasis is on team building and collaboration.

The closer the alignment of the needs of the employee to that of the company, the more likely that attachment and loyalty to the company will be developed in the worker.

Psychological rewards

One of the ways a regional retail grocery store chain recognizes employee longevity is by hanging 7-foot photo posters of the featured employees in the store, highly visible to co-workers and customers. They also publish full page newspaper advertisements to honor long-term retiring employees.

In both cases, the employee-owned company seeks to highlight the importance of their workers and to engender loyalty among them.

While psychological rewards might not show up in the employee’s paycheck, they do signal the company’s commitment to the psychological well-being of its workers.

Many companies today use the title of chief people officer in place of the more traditional human resource director to emphasize that their associates are people and more than mere assets on the corporate balance sheet.

Trust and honesty

A company’s policies and practices need to be aligned with its mission statement. Too often there’s a disconnect between what the company says and how it acts.

For instance, during the pandemic many companies were forced to downsize their workforces. The employee-friendly organization would have had a policy in place that was widely known to employees and that focused on reducing staff through attrition instead of immediately issuing layoff notices.

These companies also would have emphasized internal promotion as method of keeping and developing it valuable employees.

Finally, these proactive businesses would have had in place a program that offered outplacement services for those they were unable to keep on the payroll. A company’s reputation as a desirable employer often is made during times of economic and workforce turmoil.

In recent years many companies have rewritten employee handbooks with the goal of changing their employment policy from that of a just-cause employer to that of an employment-at-will business.

Instead of holding itself to the higher standard of a due process procedure before discipling or discharging employees, the company permitted itself the privilege of dismissing employees for any (legal) reason, or no reason at all.

These new handbooks often were issued without notifying employees of an important change in their relationship with the firm. Once the effects of the new policy became known, employee morale and loyalty suffered. Why work for a company that sees you as a disposable commodity?

Organizations should not need to demand loyalty from its employees.

Instead, they should provide a workplace in which allegiance to the employer develops naturally from a people-friendly work environment that encourages productivity and rewards commitment to the organization.

Gerald J. Koppes, SPHR, is a retired instructor from Northeast Iowa College and the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.

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