89: How to Inspire Workplace Loyalty

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How can companies manage and support changing expectations in the workplace of diverse generations, cultivating employees’ lifelong loyalty to a company? Thought leader Lee Caraher joins HR Studio Podcast to offer her perspectives on how organizations can set employee expectations to foster greater loyalty. Lee provides the context for current workplace attitudes and offers a definition of loyalty. She proposes actions that employers can take while noting realities that must be understood and communicated. She offers advice and suggestions for professionals and HR Leaders to stay relevant.
Lee Caraher is the CEO of Double Forte, a 15-year-old public relations and digital marketing firm. Lee is also an acclaimed author and recognized expert in creating high performing, positive workplaces. She has published Millennials & Management and The Boomerang Principle, books that discuss how to inspire employees to be loyal and how to adapt the workplace in such a way that baby boomers, millennials, and Gen X/Y/Zers can all work together effectively.
Listen (above) or watch the video (below) to catch Denise's interview with Lee.

Key Learnings From This Episode

  • How can companies deal with the different expectations of younger generations? People jump ship when their expectations are not met. The key is to set expectations so everyone is aligned. Boomers and Gen Xers understood the workplace (which was not the case for Gen Y, millennials or Gen Z). When the market was booming, opportunities came and boomers waited their turn. With the implosion of the economy in 2008, things changed. Pre-set norms were ‘blown up’ and more senior workers (the boomers) did not adjust. Re-establishing work expectations such as how long it takes to move and possible job paths has not been managed well. For those entering entry-level jobs, it is important they understand the role, its importance, and how it relates to different future career paths. When you explain what employees can expect from a foundational job, there is a better chance of getting them onboard and less chance of their becoming bored or perceiving what they are doing as not valuable. When we do a better job of setting expectations, we have better results, and people stay longer.
  • What else can foster a level of loyalty to stay? Companies have a purpose and a market to serve.  Human Resources gets a ‘bad rap’ because they are forced to provide compliance, do research, and compile data. Humans are not ‘check the box’ people. HR recognizes that people are complicated, but the systems do not allow HR to acknowledge how non-conforming humans are. Employees have interests and aspirations. When you have the conversations and are able to help employees achieve their own goals within the structure of the company, they will understand that you are trying to help them, and they’ll know that you know that the company’s success is based on their success. You can provide training and variety outside of their work, you can adjust hours to support someone going back to school, or you can help someone expand their responsibilities within their current role. If companies are not full of people doing great stuff, then the company is not doing great stuff.
  • Lee Caraher quote on HR Studio PodcastUnderstanding loyalty. Showing up to work is not a loyal act. When you are getting paid to work, it is not a loyal act to stay – it is a transaction. Loyal acts happen when you don’t have to do them. Loyalty is something above and beyond. The most loyal thing an employee can do is leave their company when they are no longer inspired and satisfied with the work they do at their company – and they have tried everything. The most loyal act is not getting paid for something you are doing.

    Leaders need to have great conversations and understand their people. There is so much waste in companies because people ‘wish’ they could do other things. This is inefficiency, and all that inefficiency is profit down the drain. Are there things that employees ‘do on the side’ that they really enjoy doing and are extremely talented at doing and could be doing at the company?

    Millennials and Gen Zers have 10 million parents who lost their jobs between 2008-2009, even though they had been loyal to their employers. People who were at their companies the longest had the hardest time finding new jobs. They now tell their kids, ‘don’t stay at a company too long’. Ten years later, they are now asking, ‘why are these kids leaving?’ 

  • How do you counter the argument, ‘companies aren’t loyal to us, why should we be loyal to them?’ If companies are not interested in you, they are not loyal to you. Companies cannot guarantee a job. What if a client gets bought, goes public, or goes under? That can change a company’s revenue stream. A company can guarantee experience, culture, that they are going to provide opportunity, and that they are going to do their best, but a company cannot guarantee work. If a company has done all this, and an employee says that the company is not loyal to them, then there needs to be a conversation about what loyalty really is.
  • There are things outside of a company’s control. The key is to have great values that are understood and to have good conversations. Anything a leader does should not be a surprise to their people. As an example, if a company loses a large client that brought in significant revenue, a leader should say, ‘this is how much time we have to replace the revenue and this is how we plan to do it; if we’re not able to do it, this is what we will need to do.’ There is an issue with the leader if employees are surprised by the response.
  • If someone has only worked at one company, how can they address that on the resume? People who have stayed at one company throughout their career have likely changed jobs within the company, have continued to learn, and have developed in their roles. A person can stay with one company for their entire career but never have the same job. A resume and LinkedIn profile need to demonstrate that evolution of learning. Titles can be challenging because they don’t always change. Be sure to separate the roles and provide the detail to show the learning and evolution.
  • Set expectations, give people room to grow, support and help with their interests and goals, and make sure people are working at a high level. It only ‘works’ if it is working. There is work to get done. There needs to be a high standard of that work. Employees should strive for high performance. The grow mentality is what can really propel employees to propel their company. ‘Have I grown this? Have I learned something this year? What is different this year from last year?’ An employee’s job today is probably very different from what it was three years ago. Industries transform. Relevance is the key. How do people stay relevant? The more relevant someone is, the more important they are and the bigger the roles they will have. 
  • Relevancy, adaptability, persistence, and flexibility are key. Change is constant. It is important for employees to feel confident that they have a solid foundation to be able to manage whatever comes their way. It is important to take stock every quarter. What were the expectations? What did not get met? It is important to have a plan that shows where an employee is at and where they should or want to be. This facilitates seeing and explaining the variants.
  • Lee Caraher quote on HR Studio PodcastHow do you foster a sense of partnership, collaboration, cooperation, and teamwork when you have a young, tech-savvy employee joining the company who will have baby boomers reporting to them? More and more baby boomers will be working for people who are younger, and people will be working for much longer than they had anticipated, therefore:  (1) people need to have confidence in who they are (it’s been observed that men have had more difficulty with this); and (2) older employees have a lot to offer younger employees, and good managers look to see where they can get good value out of everyone. Research has shown that millennials expect to lead, but not all the time. Older workers should be less concerned about the age of their manager – it is important to focus on one’s own expertise and how they can be of most value to their manager. Discard the ‘chip on the shoulder’, whether it is on the shoulder of the younger manager or the older baby boomer.  Focus on, ‘here is what I have, here is what you may not know about me, I’m happy to be here and excited about this role, and here is why I am excited to continue to be here and to learn and grow’.  People who had a variety of different experiences make better decisions. Embrace it.
  • Advice for rising HR leaders. HR’s time is now, it is coming into its own. HR is getting more seats at the table. The more HR leaders can do to show they want to help people reach their goals, the more they can help people become better coaches. HR’s role is becoming more and more important as companies realize they cannot treat people poorly.
Lee Caraher HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Lee Caraher HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Tuesday, October 1, 2019 - 8:00am
Denise Yosafat
Lee Caraher
HR Studio Podcast