In the past, you left school or university and joined an organisation and stayed there until you retired, back then it was a “job for life”. Loyalty was an expected and valued quality, which was rewarded with promotion and success.
Now organisations are having to work hard to initiate loyalty in their employees, expectations are different and businesses are having to compete harder, with retention strategies, appealing company cultures, and a strong employer brand.
Long term job loyalty is almost non-existent. A recent study by LinkedIn showed that millennials will work for nearly twice as many companies in the first 5 years of their career than their parents. Today the average person will have 12-15 jobs in their lifetime.
The Pros of long term loyalty
Although the concept of long term loyalty is perhaps becoming a thing of the past, let's take a look at some of the advantages it can bring.
Staying loyal means you gain extensive experience within your organisation and become the go to person, even an expert in your field.
Your work life is consistent and stable – you have built strong relationships with your colleagues, you understand all the systems, you know what’s expected of you, and are confident performing your role.
Some companies reward employees for their loyalty by offering cumulative bonuses, more days holiday & greater pension contributions.
Does loyalty create a glass ceiling?
Spending significant portions of your career at the same company can limit your earning potential and slow career progression. You may also risk pigeonholing yourself - becoming so engrained in a specific area, it may be hard to find a role outside of it.
Salary Inversion is something you could face when you remain in an organisation long term. There will be new recruits where starting salaries increase faster than yours as an existing employee and it will typically happen in a talent short market.
Also, consider the scenario, your role has changed significantly since you were hired. Often you will have taken on more responsibility and additional, often more skilled tasks; but with only minor incremental pay increases. In the end, your salary isn’t commensurate to the role you are performing.
Negotiating a higher starting salary at a new business is often easier than negotiating a major leap in salary at your existing one.
The challenge that loyalty can also create is one of comfort; you become so comfortable, things are simple, even easy at work, you know what you’re doing, you know the people and the salary suits your needs; there is a comfortable familiarity about it all. But this means you can become complacent, if you aren’t pushed, you won’t go out of your way to challenge yourself, learn new skills and improve, which in itself could be a career limiter.
But what if the reasons for your “loyalty” are because you are comfortable? You don’t feel you’d get the same benefits or flexibility somewhere else, you don’t want to take the risk, you’re happy with your lot, and don’t want to put yourself out of your comfort zone. Is that loyalty?
What is the basis for your loyalty?
We can see that with loyalty comes pros and cons but it is fundamental that you understand the basis for your loyalty and are in control of it.
Loyalty: A strong feeling of support or allegiance.
We all feel this, in a number of different scenarios but we must make sure that loyalty isn’t blind or misplaced.
You could be loyal because:
You don’t want to leave and let your team down
If you leave your boss will be left to deal with a toxic culture on their own
You are overconfident, what would the business do without me?
Comfort and fear of taking a risk
In the majority of scenarios above, although they demonstrate feelings of support or allegiance is it misplaced? If you left, would the team be let down or would they carry on, understanding your departure? If you stayed and supported your boss despite a toxic culture, does this not exacerbate and support such a thing? A business will always do ok without you, you are not indispensable, and as harsh as it may seem you are likely to be replaced.
So perhaps a way to ensure that you are being loyal for the right reasons is to maybe ask yourself the following questions from time to time:
Am I happy?
Is the leadership competent and transparent?
Are my skills growing
Am I being recognised for the skills I am doing?
If you can answer yes to all those questions your feelings of support and allegiance are not misplaced and you are in control.
A happy medium
Perhaps the key for today’s employee is to find the balance between loyalty to an employer whilst also being prepared for a potential future outside of your current organisation.
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