The long, slow death of workplace loyalty

The Globe and Mail asks, “Is workplace loyalty dead in the age of the millennial?” I tend to think workplace loyalty was dead long before millennials entered the workforce but, writer Merge Gupta-Sunderji does offer some good points about what employers can do to keep employees engaged longer. The third one, I think, is critical:

Two-way dialogue is essential. Most new entrants to the work force have grown up in a highly connected environment, accustomed to receiving instantaneous feedback from parents, teachers and coaches. Besides, it is not a bad thing when employees want to know how they’re doing; it means they want to improve and make a positive impact. So tell them. Frequently. In fact, a June, 2016, Gallup poll showed that employee engagement was highest for those who met with their manager at least once a week, or more often.

Constant feedback is so important for employees (not only millennials), and it’s such an easy thing for  managers to do, yet so few do it. There are probably a couple reasons why:

  1. No one likes giving bad news, but if the only feedback you have to give is negative, well then, you’re either hiring the wrong people or you’re a terrible boss. And the thing is, if you’re having regular conversations with your people and building a good working relationship, it should be easier to have that a tough conversation when a difficult issue comes up, rather than trying to have it out of the blue.
  2. I think a lot of managers think these feedback sessions have to be a big formal thing, like a performance review. They don’t. They can be a coffee break, a walk-and-talk, a 15-minute catch-up. Save the formal reviews for end of quarter; just have a discussion.
  3. Who has the time. More and more, managers are asked to be “player-coaches,” and people management becomes a smaller part of their role—they need to be hands-on, whether they want to be or not, and the “softer,” less measurable activities—tending to the day-to-day needs of their team—fall to the back burner. That is something that’s going to have to change as more millennials enter the workforce. I would recommend carving out time in your calendar and getting in the habit of building those relationships today.

One last thought on loyalty. “Workplace loyalty” may be dead, as workers seek out the latest and greatest opportunity and companies hire, fire and layoff workers on a whim. To me, loyalty isn’t the relationship between a company and its people, it’s the relationships between the people. If your manager treats you right, be loyal to them; if your staff gives you their best, be loyal to them. When you leave, stay in touch. Build your network. Share opportunities when you see them.

And, to tie it all back together—those regular feedback meetings? That’s where that loyalty begins.