GenX Think Tank: Employee Loyalty

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Generation X has been fortunate to cross the chasm from the traditional view of work and careers to the quickly evolving workplace. It has come at a cost. This generation has learned to adjust, having graduated during the recession and experiencing multiple economic downturns within their lifetime. The introduction of technology during their early careers created yet another adjustment that has also stifled career paths, impacted financial stability while producing clear opportunities for GenXers who have evolved with the times.

Together with Boomers and Millennials, GenX is realizing that nothing is forever and the economic instability, together with more frequent company turnover, puts even more importance on this current workforce to figure out what changes befall them and how they are to maneuver in the coming decades.

Recent statistics from Access Development:

  • $11 billion is lost annually due to employee turnover.
  • Companies that increase their number of talented managers and double the rate of engaged employees achieve, on average, 147% higher earnings per share than their competition
  • Each year the average company loses 20-50% of its employee base.
  • 33% of senior leaders believe employee loyalty has a direct relationship to profits.
  • 32.9% of US workers are engaged with their employers.
  • The top three challenges faced by HR organizations today are turnover, employee engagement, and succession planning.
  • 48% of employees are confident they can find a job that matches their compensation level within six months of starting to hunt.

Our panel included:

  • Ross, a middle GenX, self-employed in Digital and Content Marketing
  • Brent, an older GenX, self-employed in Financial Planning
  • Maris, a younger GenX, an Attorney by day, and editor and digital consultant by night
  • Rebecca, a middle GenX, in the recruiting industry
  • Mila, a middle GenX, in the financial services industry
  • Helen, an older Millennial, our moderator, a strategist in the Advertising industry

Primary Insights:

What made you loyal to a company?

Everyone agreed loyalty equates to tenure.Circumstances were varied for our panellists.  Life changes, expectations and employer situations were factors in determining their loyalty.

  • For a few GenXers career growth with a company was a strong factor for loyalty.
  • At the same time, as GenXers progressed through life, life choices (outside of career) became more important factors in determining whether they stay with a company.
  • Where there was clear reciprocation of loyalty from the employer– a sense of family, where employees benefitted from company success, GenXers would more than likely stay.
  • Those who have had long tenures at companies also experienced very short stays at companies. As Maris put it:

I did something awesome for them [the company] and they couldn’t even say thank you.

  • Ross noted the importance of perceived freedom to do what he wanted to succeed, to try new things and to have his voice heard. While this is more common in industries like Real Estate, where individuals are highly self-reliant, this situation is less prevalent in more corporate environments.
  • Brent noted that GenXers also grew up expecting they would be at one company for life and expect to retire there. That has quickly dissipated.  In corporate environments with larger employee bases, individuals do not have power and are are less likely to challenge the status quo.
  • In a larger environment people leave managers who set arbitrary targets then push the responsibility among staff to meet those goals, automatically removing responsibility from themselves. This lack of accountability frustrates those who must execute against unreasonable goals.
  • As long as there is momentum and growth, GenXers will stay. Others want to be heard. As per Ross,

The one company I worked for didn’t care to hear ideas to improve their business… I am tired of being smarter than the people running the company.

 

While compensation is a factor, there are soft skills a manager requires to foster loyalty

Our panellists sang a common tune:

  • People want to be heard. People also want instructions that make sense. The manager has to come from a position of trust and give a reason to why things need to get done they way they do.
  • Consistency is key. Rebecca put this nicely,

The real balance in gaining loyalty is setting up a baseline of rules that everyone adheres to, but allows for flexibility depending on the seniority and capabilities of each of the team members.

  • Every manager SHOULD be a training manager. Develop people to be “better” than you and allow them to be awesome at what they do best.
  • As Brent noted,

I never told anybody to do anything. I always ASK them and I always explain why.. and I always say Thank You. That made a huge difference.

  • When developing talent, give them context in how they are contributing to the larger organization. Give them a sense of ownership.
  • Mila pointed out the difference between a manger and a leader. A leader motivates their people and genuinely respects them, their own personal goals and helps them determine what they need to reach their goals.
  • Everyone agreed that it is OK to be good at one job and get tremendous satisfaction about doing it really well. Despite society’s pressure to learn more, do more and move up the ladder, there are those that are highly skilled at one task and they will be the most loyal to a company, if there is acceptance of this.
  • Helen stated her experience at Blockbuster taught her how to reward team members. Everyone assumes that we all have the same goals and we all should be rewarded the same way. Instead, we should reward people based on what each of them of values:

1) Reward by knowledge 2) Reward by physical benefits or compensation 3) Reward with access: take them to a meeting, teach them something… A good manager acknowledges that everyone has different motivations for coming to work. A good manager will figure out what is important to his/her employee.

What one piece of advice will you give to better foster employee loyalty?

  • Mila stated the importance of creating an environment for people to listen to each other –  “kitchen meetings” with no agenda with the goal of learning about each other’s challenges.
  • Rebecca, our recruiter, noted we cannot discount fair compensation for work completed. Also, tie compensation packages to individual and company performance.
  • Maris was strong in her statement,

Give a damn, and if you can’t then learn how to fake it. If you don’t give a sh*t about your employees, they will sense that and won’t give back.

  • Happy employees mean happy clients. As a manager think about what you can do to keep a good employee there “long term”, not reward them only in the short term.
  • Hire the right people for the culture. Find those that are compelled by the vision of the company and align with its culture and goals.

Conclusion:

The voice of the employee is more significant today. Their choices for opportunities are not as limiting as they once believed. As with our Millennial and Blended Hangouts, GenXers are clearly aligned with developing the right environment to keep great employees as long as a company can.

You listen or watch the Hangout in its entirety below:

CEO at ArCompany, and a seasoned digital strategist having held management positions for top Ad Agencies including Ogilvy, Rapp Collins, ONE and Isobar Digital. She also has extensive start-up experience with launch successes like Yahoo! Answers. Hessie is the co-author of EVOLVE: Marketing (as we know it) is Doomed! She is also an active writer for Huffington Post, and Steamfeed.

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