Achieving Employee Loyalty is All about Give and Take

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The once wildly-popular TV show The Weakest Link was based on the premise that teams can’t reach their full potential unless everyone is on board and working toward a common goal. This is similar to employee loyalty.

Without full buy-in from all team members, real collaboration is impossible. In addition, employees who feel no reason to be loyal are more likely to slack off and eventually quit.

The difficulty is that hiring is time, labor, and cost intensive. According to the 2016 SHRM Human Capital Benchmarking Report, the average cost of hiring and onboarding a new employee is $4,129. The average time to fill a new position is 42 days.

The hiring process also puts stress on current team members. Not only will they have to train/answer questions, but also they’ll start to wonder if the company is in trouble.

Most professionals want to do right by the companies for which they work. However, you must give them a reason to actually want to get and stay involved. That begins with making a concerted effort to switch fixed employees to loyal team members.

Here’s how to nurture employee loyalty in your company:

1) Know the difference between fixed and loyal employees

Fixed employees stay because they don’t know how to leave. These employees:

  • fear change
  • can’t find/haven’t found a better option
  • have family/financial concerns that prevent them from leaving
  • are retiring soon

Fixed employees do what they must to stay employed. For them, a job is just a job. In many cases, this is largely due to the fact that they don’t feel valued as professionals.

Loyal/committed employees, on the other hand, care deeply about the company and their co-workers. They feel like part of the greater company vision and know how their role contributes to success. This keeps them satisfied, dedicated, and productive. In some cases, loyal employees even help attract new hires.

In order to transform fixed employees into loyal team members, you must first show the former how their work directly benefits company goals. Explain how they individually fit into the team culture and remind them that they were hired because their skills and experience matter. For most fixed employees, they just want to know they’re making a difference and that their work is appreciated.

2) Regularly observe employee behavior

Fixed employees are easy to spot if you know what to look for. In some cases, these workers are actually waiting for you to approach them and offer ways by which they can improve and become more connected to the workplace and their co-workers.

Without this personal attention to detail, fixed employees will simply find another role. In fact, of the 5,000 job seekers surveyed in the 2017 CareerBuilder Candidate Experience, a whopping 76 percent said they’re actively seeking other opportunities. These employees likely feel excluded from company goings-on and don’t view themselves as valuable team members, since they often haven’t been given any concrete indication of such.

That’s why when you notice the behavior of a fixed employee, you must take swift action. Recognize team members who are, or have suddenly become, reclusive. These workers make the same excuses over and again. They submit only the bare minimum amount of work required.

In addition, their quality of work may be starting to suffer and they show no interest in career advancement. They never arrive early or stay late, and they refuse to participate in work-related social functions. For fixed employees, it’s not a matter of if they’ll leave, it’s when.

Rather than accepting their inevitable departure, reach out to the employee and address the issue face-to-face. This kind of open discussion will reveal their true reservations (no incentive/growth, bored/stunted creativity, overworked). It will also make you aware of pitfalls in your organization (workplace conflict, poor leadership, lack of development opportunities).

3) Give some, take some  

Once you’ve been able to get to the heart of the matter and have received feedback from fixed employees, it’s time to take action. Rather than one-way communication, make a point to involve team members in the next steps.

Of the 300 managers polled in the 2016 Quantum Workplace State of Employee Feedback survey, 57 percent said employees have a role in their own engagement. When employees are directly involved in solutions, they’re more likely to meet the goals set out in performance agreements.


First, determine what’s most important to workers. Based on that feedback, create a personalized career plan. Get buy-in by creating an employee commitment strategy. This should include development opportunities and regular two-way feedback (monthly one-on-one sessions).

For their part, employees must gain a full understanding of the company mission and vision, and how they fit into the plan. They should realize their responsibilities and what’s expected of them moving forward.  

4) Make time for fun and games

To modify the cliche, all work and no play makes for dull employees. Improve workplace culture by implementing fun and innovative team-building and bonding activities.

As an example, document tech company Nitro gives employees five paid time off (PTO) days a year specifically for volunteer projects, in addition to their normal PTO. The company culture is centered around ‘compassion,’ and workplace leaders say this is one concrete way to show it.  

Workflow platform company Symphony offers a “build your own benefit” perk, where professionals can choose a perk most important to them. This comes in addition to their normal benefits.

And as part of their “Champagne and Cheers” monthly employee recognition program, the staff at Goosehead Insurance gather to toast top-performing professionals. Winners also get a free bottle of champagne.

With focus and determination, it’s possible to turn fixed employees into loyal and dedicated team members. Through observation, flexibility, and team building and bonding, you can bring once-dedicated employees back into the fold and transform them back into productive and engaged professionals.

How do you approach employee engagement? Let us know in the comments!

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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta is the vice president of business development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management solution that gives job seekers complete control over their job search. It's available for individual users, university and military career services centers, libraries, and corporations seeking to offer outplacement assistance to former employees. Connect with Val and CareerShift on LinkedIn.