Back in July 2011, an article appeared in Psychology Today in which the contributor asked, “Is loyalty dead?”
It was an apt question, considering that the same year, by one measure, some 46% of new hires left their companies after their first year.
As we’re grown used to hearing, modern workers are now less likely than ever to remain at a single company for long periods. But that transience doesn’t mean loyalty itself has lost its value–if anything, it’s become an even more precious resource. Some organizations and leaders still excel at cultivating remarkable loyalty within their teams. Here are seven key habits that help them do that.
Nobody likes to work for a phony. In past decades, it was more common for employees to tolerate insincere and ineffective leaders. These days, younger generations are generally less willing to suffer under bosses they have little respect for. That’s putting a greater premium on authenticity. Authentic leaders can be counted on to say what they mean and do what they say. They’re the same person to their staff, their own superiors, their customers, and their partners.
Leaders who inspire real loyalty see their role as motivating and improving the working lives of those they lead. They view their team members as more than just people to help them execute their own goals.
Instead, they find meaning and purpose in bringing out the best in their employees. Success is a question of the number of talented people they’ve helped to grow and advance in the organization. In private conversations, they love to include stories about those employees and their accomplishments.
You can’t inspire genuine loyalty if you’re unwilling to be a mentor. The best leaders continuously look for ways to help their staff develop, not only in the workplace but also in areas of their personal lives. One of the biggest drivers of high turnover is the belief that there are better professional development opportunities further afield. If employees who are loyal to their companies feel otherwise, it’s largely thanks to their managers.
Look for opportunities not just to train your staff but to challenge them. If those resources aren’t already available within your company, try to bring them in from the outside. In fact, inspiring leaders are more afraid of their employees’ skills stagnating than they are of losing talent to other organizations after they’ve put energy into developing them.
Inspiring leaders push staff to go beyond their comfort zones and are there to support them. Armed with the confidence of their leader, team members are more apt to take on challenges and risk failure. But you can’t spark real loyalty simply by telling your employees you trust them. It needs to be backed up by action. Employees who know their leaders have their backs will not only take on bolder challenges, they’ll stay put even when they stumble or when the going gets tough.
Leaders who inspire those under them are open and transparent about what they believe. They share their ideas openly and enthusiastically every chance they get. Their team members never have to guess where they’re coming from. Those leaders make it clear what it takes to succeed in the organization and explain where they see the company heading.
They’re also unafraid of being proved wrong–the point is to sustain a regular and meaningful dialogue, not win an argument. Their positive energy and belief in those they work with is contagious and boosts everyone’s energy.
Regardless of what position they hold, inspiring leaders take the opportunity to work alongside everyone whose work they oversee. No task or project is too far beneath them to play a hand in. If emergency strikes, leaders who inspire are the first ones on the scene, offering to do whatever is necessary to get the job done. They don’t expect anyone to do a task that they themselves aren’t willing to do.
Talk to any leader who inspires loyalty and they’ll be able to share a wealth of information about each of their team members–not only their performance history, but also their families, hobbies, and interests outside the workplace. Cultivating loyalty takes knowing your employees as people. Leaders who do it well are fully aware that their team members’ lives impact their work in many ways. Supporting your employees’ personal needs is one of the best ways to ensure that they’ll be there in turn when you and the company need them most.