I can’t count the number of times I have heard someone say: “We can’t fire Jane because she’s so loyal. She’s been with the company for twenty years,” or “Bob’s such a loyal employee. He’s been with us since we started the company.” Longevity is not necessarily an indicator of an employee’s worth. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The quality, not the longevity, of one’s life [and work!] is what is important.”
Staying with a company year after year is not a measure of loyalty. It’s only a measure of longevity, as if that should really matter to you. If someone has been with an employer for years, it could be that they:
- Don’t want to deal with change.
- Are comfortable where they are.
- May not be qualified for another position.
- Feel safe.
- May be too lazy to look for another job so they hang on to what they have.
- Are aware that in today’s economy, keeping a job with benefits is safer than plunging into the unknown.
People remain because it is in their best interest to do so, not yours. And that’s not to say there is anything inherently “wrong” in these motivations. They are certainly valid for those individuals. But loyalty… loyalty has a much more significant impact on the company – and on the employees themselves.
- Care about the company and their colleagues.
- Do their work to the best of their ability.
- Ask for more responsibility.
- Act in the interest of the company.
- Tell you when they think something is not right.
- Help you find ways to save money and become more efficient.
- Advocate for the company when they talk to outsiders.
- Are there – mentally and physically – when needed.
- Are more satisfied and productive at work.
Who would you rather keep and reward: a “B” player who remains because that’s the easiest thing to do, or an “A” player who always goes the extra mile for your company? Look at behavior to determine loyalty, not the time they spent at the company. Don’t confuse longevity with loyalty.