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Employee loyalty: Does It Still Exist?

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Employee loyalty can be defined as employees who are devoted to the success of their organization and believe that being an employee of this organization is in their best interest. Not only do they plan to remain with the organization, but they do not actively seek for alternative employment opportunities.

I came across an online retailer called Zappos it calls its executives ‘monkeys’ in a unique fashion the company has created blue ocean strategies to achieve baseline objectives this eventually triggered my mind to find out more about employee loyalty.

The company believes that customer intimacy begins with employee loyalty hence it has a tempting way of testing employee loyalty through offering employees unbelievable cash up-front to quit the job but surprisingly the employees never quit.

In our Zimbabwean context where a majority of companies are struggling to pay salaries in time it is hard to imagine how many loyal employees will refuse such a colourful offer. This brings to the fore the question whether the concept of employee loyalty still exists in a downward economy like ours?

The traditional notion of employee loyalty used to define loyalty as a stable dedicated lifetime relationship with a particular employer gauged by the number of years the employee would have affectively served. In this case, the employer would annually give Long Service Awards recognizing loyalty and this is still practiced by most employers.

In this modern era, signified by the vicious war for talent and where competitive advantage through human resources is of utmost importance, the concept of loyalty has dramatically changed to be only defined by the number of years served and affection for the employer. Most workplaces are now packed with engaged productive employees with calculative involvement yet not loyal.

Due to the challenges most employers are facing ranging from liquidity problems and operational difficulties, meeting employee expectations has remained in dire straits. Delayed salary payments, unguaranteed job security and career stagnation have undeniably scratched off the marriage model of employment and replaced it with the convenient dating model signified by employees who are always ready to leave.

Unfortunately the status quo in the labour market is that job opportunities are scarce and disgruntled employees have nowhere to go. The proverbial greener pastures are limited and competition for rewarding jobs is very stiff. The obvious choice most employees have is to remain holed up in jobs where they are daily expected to perform despite all the dissatisfaction. This results in long employment service that does not fully indicate loyalty to the organization.

It is a sad predicament for the employers since the absence of employee loyalty results in countless negatives. Disloyal employee’s bad mouth their employer and they do not identify with their paymaster. In public discussions or arguments, disloyal employees are also not in a position to passionately defend their employer. At the workplace, disloyal employees choose not to take responsibility of difficult work situations and they are not at liberty to do tasks outside their job descriptions.

At exactly 1300hrs they cease to operate and precisely at 1700hrs they pack bags to go home because they are sensitive about the time the employer does not take into account on the payroll. No matter the justification for such behaviors, they are detrimental to the operations and existence of the company.

Regardless of the hard times employers are going through, it is prudent for employers to implement key drivers of employee loyalty. Proponents of employee loyalty mention that key drivers of employee loyalty are distributive justice and procedural justice. The former is concerned with outcomes of decisions and which principles are used by the organization when making decisions and the latter deals with procedures and how they are enacted.

Distributive and procedural justice can be achieved through human resource management practices and policies which have close control on employees and a clear linkage with employee loyalty. These include, fairness in remuneration, justice in performance appraisals, clearly stated policies and practices, a learning environment, empowerment of employees and increasing trust between management and non-management employees especially in industrial relations matters.

To add on, the recognition of the importance of work life balance, career growth; clear communication channels and provision of training opportunities for employees also increase employee loyalty. Though not exhaustive, these strategies enhance employee loyalty and in terms of applicability no one size fits all.

Organizational leadership is also one of the variables of employee loyalty which is of paramount importance. Top leadership implements the company vision and mission and formulates strategies to achieve them. When there is a failure by top leadership to communicate such information effectively and execute the objectives diligently, there is an unavoidable death of employee loyalty.

According to a research conducted by a retail giant called Sears, Roebuck & Co, employee loyalty improves the revenue growth of a company. One author also stated that in times of crisis, companies with loyal employees have high chances of survival since their employees dedicate themselves to recuperate the company from any impending doldrums. In terms of employee retention, highly dedicated employees do not huffily ditch their employer which actually reduces the cost of recruitment and selection.

There is every reason for employers to ensure that levels of employee loyalty are high through measuring employee loyalty not by just verbally asking the state of affairs. In the Japanese culture, employee loyalty is one of the most important elements of the employment relationship which can never be ignored. It is total allegiance and promotion of the company interests and you cannot befriend a person from a rival company. In such turbulent times I am of the view that competitive advantage can be maintained through employee loyalty.

Using a Likert Scale gathering open ended comments with scaled data, employers can quantitatively determine whether employees still have a passion for their work and whether they are still pleased with the work environment. An Employee Loyalty Index (ELI) can also be empirically used to track employee loyalty over a period of time focusing on attitudinal and behavioral components of an employee. Another strategy in the service industry will be to use mystery shoppers to gather information on how employees are still engaged on their jobs.

Without making use of these instruments, the existence of employee loyalty will otherwise become a legendary myth celebrated by our grandfathers who spent their working lives with one company.

Freemen Pasurai writes in his personal capacity. He is passionate about people management and customer services . He can be contacted on freemenpasurai01@gmail.com.

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