The New Loyalty

10 06 2013

We live in a mobile economy. Pensions have given way to the 401k, the gold watch at 20 years of service has been replaced by limited term contracts and one year performance incentives. My father had never heard about corporate recruiters; I get several notes a year from them looking for talent for the next assignment. ‘How long have you been with the company’ has been replaced by ‘What have you done for me lately’. Just last week the recently named NBA coach of the year was fired. Who doesn’t have their resume constantly updated?

Have we seen the death of loyalty?

No, I don’t think we have. But we have to recognize that it’s changed, and much like we live in a different society and economy today, so to loyalty looks different than it did for the previous generation. 

Company loyalty is a quaint idea, to be sure. Gone are the days when the company stuck its neck out for the benefit of the employee. I don’t see that kind of loyalty coming back.  In simple terms, loyalty to an employee is about taking a short-term risk in order to create a long-term gain. There is simply too much pressure from Boards and external stakeholders to produce now for that kind of risk to be taken. It’s become far too easy to manage individual contributions on a spreadsheet and quickly cut and replace the cell that is causing issue. 

Loyalty today exists in personal relationships. As humans, we’re hardwired to empathize and care about one another. We engage, we connect, we take an interest and share with each other in ways both professionally and personally beneficial.

So take time to build relationships with the people you value. You’ll get the benefit of what they’ve learned and done, which is likely to enrich your own work. You’ll also build some goodwill in the event that they need to go to bat for you, which the company as a whole isn’t usually willing to do anymore. And these are the people you can turn to down the road, when you need help or assistance or advice. 

You’d be surprised how willing people are to help someone they built a relationship with, even when years have passed.

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