How loyal are your employees to your organization? As you consider this question, a few employees might stand out in your mind for their dedication to your nonprofit’s cause or their above-and-beyond contributions to a recent project for your business. But in reality, employee loyalty is a difficult thing to measure and quantify.
That isn’t to say there haven’t been attempts to measure employee loyalty. In 2018, management and consulting firm West Monroe found that 82 percent of employees have a high sense of loyalty to their employers. However, they also found the following:
- 45% of employees have applied to new jobs after a bad day at work
- 59% of employees would leave if they got a better offer from another organization
What does this all mean? Employee loyalty is volatile. Similar to a tropical plant that requires exact amounts of water, careful fertilization, specific stretches of time in the sunlight, and consistent pruning, employee loyalty is something you have to carefully nurture.
One current, large-scale threat to employee loyalty is a new trend called “The Great Resignation.” This refers to the massive amount of turnover the U.S. is currently seeing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.4 million employees quit their jobs in September 2021 alone. And The Great Resignation isn’t likely to end soon. Astron Solutions national director Jennifer Loftus recently discussed this topic with other HR experts in a Cerini and Associates webinar, predicting that The Great Resignation will likely continue for the next two years.
A variety of things could be causing so many people to leave their jobs, including burnout from the pandemic and a realigning of personal priorities. But instead of deciphering the causes of The Great Resignation, your organization should focus on mitigating its effects by increasing long-term loyalty among your employees.
In this article, we’ll give you the information you need to understand what employee loyalty is and how to create it in your workplace. We’ll cover the following:
- Employee Loyalty: FAQs
- Employee Loyalty: The Secret Sauce
- Employee Loyalty: 15 Tips for Positive Change
Are you ready to start taking action to improve your employees’ loyalty to your organization and its work? Let’s jump right in!
Employee Loyalty: FAQs
A number of questions can arise when discussing employee loyalty. Let’s tackle a few of these to help you cultivate loyalty among your workers.
Employee loyalty is the idea that employees at your organization are genuinely invested in your organization and its work because they believe in it and want to see it move forward. Loyal employees view your organization as the best place for them to work.
Employee loyalty is important because it affects overall employee satisfaction and retention. If an employee is loyal to your organization and is satisfied with their job and compensation, they will be much more likely to continue working at your organization in the long run.
There is no comprehensive checklist for determining whether an individual employee is loyal to your organization or not. But loyal employees do have some key qualities, many of which are easy to identify. They come to work on time, complete their work, and participate in company culture. But there are also some characteristics that make a loyal employee stand out from the crowd.
A loyal employee is truly invested in your organization’s work. You may have heard these employees described as “engaged.” They see the bigger picture of your work or mission, instead of just focusing on the day-to-day. This is often reflected in their efforts to improve themselves in their current roles or take advantage of career development opportunities. A loyal employee helps brainstorm ideas that will benefit your organization as a whole and gives honest feedback about their experience because they want to make your organization a better place to work. They also accept final decisions that come from the top and run with them.
Loyal employees also have boundaries. They don’t sacrifice their health, personal endeavors, or time with loved ones for your organization. They take their vacation time, use their sick days, and are better workers because of it.
You can’t improve loyalty at your organization overnight. Much like a relationship with a donor or client, loyalty has to be cultivated over time, and that effort can take many different forms. In the sections below, we’ll give you actionable strategies for improving employee loyalty.
What employee loyalty means and looks like will vary from organization to organization. Loyalty is a complex idea to define and measure, but there are some effective ways to make positive changes in your organization so you can foster loyalty among your workers. It all starts with what we call “the secret sauce.”
Employee Loyalty: The Secret Sauce
The reality of employee loyalty is that most organizations try to get their employees to truly care about the organization and their work and end up missing the mark. Why?
Because they aren’t applying the “secret sauce.”
This secret sauce comes from an idea David Turt and Todd Nordstrom shared in a 2019 Forbes article called “The Truth About Employee Loyalty, And 5 Things Every Leader Should Know”:
You, as the leader, can only control your loyalty to them. We’ve personally seen so many managers get wrapped up in trying to ‘fix’ employee behavior. That seems like the job of a boss. But, it’s not. As a leader your job is to focus on what you can do to bring the best out of people. If it’s not working, keep focusing on what you could do differently.-David Turt and Todd Nordstrom
This is the secret sauce: realizing that you can’t control your employees’ feelings about their jobs or your organization. The only thing within your control is your ability to create a work environment in which employees thrive in their roles, causing them to feel loyal to your organization and you as a leader.
Organization leaders who realize they can’t force loyalty look at their employees and their organization differently. They see their employees as assets who need to be treated fairly and compensated in a way that communicates appreciation. These employers do everything in their power to ensure employees enjoy their jobs and have opportunities to learn and grow professionally. Then in return, employers like these get the dedication and investment they want to see from loyal employees.
Now that you know about the secret sauce of employee loyalty, you may be wondering what changes you need to make to your approach to apply the secret sauce and create an environment where employee loyalty can grow.
Employee Loyalty: 15 Tips for Positive Change
What do your employees need from you right now that can help them develop loyalty toward your organization? Check out these 15 tips for creating a workplace that employees will want to stay and thrive in.
Note that some of these tips may need to be modified depending on what your workplace currently looks like during the COVID-19 pandemic. Be sure to follow state and local guidelines and to modify these tips as needed.
1. Work with an HR consultant.
Does your organization have the human resources policies and processes in place to encourage employee engagement and long-term retention? In order for your employees to buy into your organization and its work, you may need to work with an HR consulting firm that can provide an objective third-party evaluation of your current strategies and help you to improve them.
To select an HR consultant for your organization, follow these steps:
- Define your needs. Identify what you need from an HR consultant. This might include streamlining your performance management process, changing your approach to compensation, or improving how you find and hire job candidates. Your needs will help guide your search for a consultant.
- Discuss with key stakeholders. Before you commit to any engagement with a consultant, make sure your team is on board with the idea of hiring outside help. This will be especially important if you’re working with a strict budget.
- Outline your guidelines. Set your expectations for working with an HR consultant. Consider the budget you have, the expected start date, and the timeframe for the engagement.
- Begin your research. Search the internet for candidates or reach out to professional connections for recommendations. Remember to consider whether or not you’re willing to work with someone remotely and to filter your options accordingly.
- Draft an RFP. An RFP, or request for proposal, will detail your organization’s needs and expectations. When you submit an RFP to a consultant, they can use that context to draft a strategy for your organization, which will help you decide whether or not you want to work with them.
- Compare the candidates. Once you’ve submitted your RFP to your chosen candidates and received their proposals, review the proposals and candidates with your leadership team.
- Make your pick. After researching your top candidate and reviewing their references, reach out to them and start working together.
HR consultants can help you see the blind spots in your strategy for cultivating employee loyalty at your organization and help you determine what you need to change as an employer. Be open to your consultant’s ideas, but don’t be afraid to push back on or workshop the strategies they bring to the table, too.
2. Equip your employees with the best tools for their work.
Do your employees have the best tools available for their roles? For example, an employee might suggest that Slack or Trello could enhance workplace communication and project management. How do you respond? If you’re willing to try it out, this shows your employees that you care about their ideas to improve how they work.
Providing your employees with the best tools can require investing in technology or other resources you may be unfamiliar with. But letting your employees have more of a say in how they complete their work helps communicate your loyalty to them and receive their loyalty in return.
Plus, never underestimate the effect purchasing up-to-date tools and equipment (like new computer monitors or desk chairs) can have on morale!
3. Discuss retention openly.
Your efforts to retain your employees don’t have to be a secret. In fact, communicating to your employees that you want them to continue working for you can actually help your retention efforts. This will not only make them feel valued, but will also help both you and your employees speak up about what you need to change or keep doing to continue working together.
One of the best spaces for discussing retention is one-on-one meetings between managers and their direct reports. Because managers are in the best position to get to know their direct reports and be involved in their work, they are also in a great position to discuss potential retention risks. Here are some questions that can help guide managers when talking about retention:
- What do you like about your job?
- What do you dislike about your job?
- Do you feel like your work is meaningful?
- Do you feel you’re able to develop new skills and take advantage of professional development opportunities in your role?
Questions like these can help you proactively extinguish potential employee turnovers before they even have a chance to spark. You can also use retention surveys to gauge new employees’ first impressions of your organization, reasons that star employees stick around, and why employees leave, all of which can inform your strategy for cultivating employee loyalty.
4. Take a total rewards approach to compensation.
According to our guide to total rewards compensation, “a total rewards approach to compensation is the most viable method of keeping your employees satisfied, increasing retention rates, and growing your organization sustainably.”
This approach encourages employers to view compensation more holistically, offering not only direct compensation and benefits, but also things like:
- Scheduling flexibility and PTO usage
- Performance recognition
- Career development opportunities such as continuing education courses, professional association memberships, and relicensing or recertification opportunities
A total rewards approach to compensation can help you create the kind of internal culture where employees thrive and want to stay. This will encourage them to strive for constant improvement in their roles, boosting retention and loyalty all around.
5. Be transparent about everything.
Transparency is key to building trust and loyalty with your employees. Transparency ensures that both your and your employees’ expectations are clear and can be met. Whether you’re open about compensation or an upcoming merger, employees will appreciate it when you make an effort to keep them updated and involve them in big-picture organizational moves.
It’s also important to be transparent about the negatives. If your nonprofit loses a major source of funding or a client’s relationship with your company sours, employees will want to know. Instead of scaring them away, you’ll show them that your organization has high ethical standards and wants to collaborate with everyone to improve and move forward.
6. Set up an employee recognition program.
According to an Apollo Technical article on employee recognition, an employee who receives recognition for their work is 63% more likely to stay at their current job for the next three to six months. What does this mean for you? Frequent and thoughtful recognition is key for ensuring your employees are happy and productive in their roles, which can increase their feelings of loyalty toward your organization.
Here are a number of ways to recognize your employees:
- Set up an incentive plan, encouraging individuals or teams to meet certain goals to earn a reward, like a gift card or an extra day of PTO.
- Write thank-you notes for employees that go above and beyond.
- Give star employees shoutouts in staff meetings or newsletters.
- Select an employee of the month and give that employee extra perks for the month, like a reserved parking spot.
- Throw parties or host special lunches or dinners for teams who go above and beyond.
Remember, employee recognition doesn’t have to break the bank. According to our article on low-cost employee recognition, “the point of employee recognition is to make the employee feel valued by the organization.” No matter your budget, you can find a way to incorporate recognition into your strategy for cultivating employee loyalty.
7. Provide management training.
Management training can help your employees—from those in entry-level positions all the way to those in top-level management roles—learn more about how your organization works and what it means to be a good boss. These opportunities can help employees who aspire to be in a management role and provide insight for others interested in learning more about why their boss makes the decisions they do.
Offer management training sessions to your employees in which you discuss how you run your organization and how managers fit into the organization’s hierarchy. Create spaces for open discussions about good management techniques, like active listening and providing feedback, so that both managers and their direct reports can get more out of their relationships with management.
Remember, teaching your employees what it means to be a great manager won’t mean much if you don’t live by what you talk about in training. Actively apply the advice you give in training to show your employees how to put it into action themselves.
8. Promote employee health.
Employees will feel more connected to your organization when your organization promotes healthy ways of living. Why? Because employees want to know that you see them as people, not just parts of an always-working machine. There are a variety of ways you can promote healthy living, including:
- Offer a mental health stipend.
- Hold daily or weekly workplace yoga, meditation, or stretching sessions.
- Keep your breakroom stocked with fresh fruits, vegetables, and caffeine-free beverages.
- Encourage teams to take walking meetings.
- Enter teams of interested employees in fun runs or walk-a-thons.
- Install standing or cycling desks.
- Invite a sleep expert to present to your employees about getting the rest they need.
- Host challenges to see which department can walk the most steps or drink the recommended amount of water every day for a certain period of time.
Show your employees that you care about them and their well-being by incorporating more health initiatives into their day-to-day tasks. They’ll be more satisfied and happy with their jobs, as they’ll feel like your organization is a place where they can both develop professionally and maintain or improve their mental, physical, and emotional health.
9. Facilitate social events.
Employees need friends at work to enjoy their jobs and want to stay with your organization. To create an environment where friendships can grow, host social events. These events can be big or small. For example, you might organize an after-work happy hour, take the office out for lunch, host a holiday party, or even set up an employee trip to an amusement park.
Ask your employees for suggestions and be sure to listen. They’ll let you know what social opportunities are the best fit for them, and they’ll love the chance to meet people from other departments and develop memories outside of their day-to-day work with each other.
10. Provide career development opportunities.
Another great way to increase your employees’ loyalty to your organization is to offer them career development opportunities. Career development opportunities are likely already part of your organization’s talent management process. But also thinking about them as something that employees want and need to feel more invested in their work can help your efforts to increase loyalty.
Here are some popular opportunities you can offer your employees:
- Stretch Assignments: These are out-of-the-ordinary assignments that require employees to learn and develop a new skill.
- Cross-Functional Teamwork: This gives employees the opportunity to work with a team or department they usually don’t get to interact with in the scope of their daily duties.
- Continuing Ed Courses: Continuing education courses, especially those that offer continuing education credits, can give your employees the chance to learn from experts in their field.
- Recertification/Relicensing Opportunities: If your industry requires employees to recertify or relicense, your organization can provide study materials and pay for the relicensing exams to encourage employees to keep their skills sharp.
- Conferences and Webinars: Provide your employees with opportunities to network and mingle with people in their field, allowing them to develop professional relationships and keep up with new industry knowledge.
- Association Memberships: Associations create a community of professionals within the same field and provide opportunities like networking, conferences, workshops, and social events to help your employees grow their professional networks.
- Management Training: In-house management training can help your employees develop a stronger understanding of how your organization works, how they can get the most out of their relationships with their managers, and how they can work toward a management position.
No matter where your employees are in their professional lives, it’s always a good idea to promote continuous learning and improvement. Providing career development opportunities like these can help you develop a great reputation with your employees as you encourage them to learn and grow within your organization.
11. Focus on diversity and inclusion.
According to Glassdoor, 76% of employees and job seekers report that diversity is an important factor when they evaluate companies and jobs. Work with your organization’s top leaders to evaluate your Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts. You might need to take action to adopt fairer hiring practices or to revise your compensation approach.
Remember, it’s not enough to just talk about DEI. Your employees want to see you making real, positive changes in the workplace.
12. Empower employees to give back.
Employees love to see opportunities from their employers to give back to the community. Opportunities to donate or volunteer enrich employees’ lives, and they also boost your reputation in your local area. Here are some opportunities you might consider offering:
- Donation Matching: One of the most popular ways for employees to give back is to donate to causes they care about. Try offering gift matching to help employees increase their donations’ impact. To learn more about the good that gift matching can do, check out 360MatchPro’s article on corporate giving and philanthropy.
- Volunteer Grants: Volunteer grants are donations organizations make to nonprofits where their employees regularly volunteer. These grants encourage employees to volunteer more and can be a great boon to nonprofits.
- Corporate Volunteer Days: When you organize a corporate volunteer day, you’re arranging for all of your employees to participate in a nonprofit’s cause for the day. Whether you’re building a new playground or tutoring school kids, your employees will find fulfillment in lending a helping hand on these designated days.
If giving back is something that your organization values, providing opportunities for employees to do the same communicates to them that your organization is consistent and has a genuine desire to do good. As you look for ways to help your employees make a difference in your community, you’ll likely notice an increase in dedication to your organization.
13. Show appreciation for the little things.
When it comes to recognizing your employees or communicating your appreciation for them, remember to thank them for the little things. An employee might clean the coffee pot, water the office plants, or take notes in a meeting without being asked. Be sure to tell them “thank you.” Those two words can go a long way in making your employees feel like they belong at your organization.
Additionally, while you may have recognition programs in place for high achievers and employees who go above and beyond, you want to make sure that you show appreciation for all your staff members, regardless of their comparative performance.
You can do this in a few ways, including:
- Giving all employees little gifts
- Stocking the breakroom with complimentary snacks and drinks
- Partner with local businesses such as gyms or cafes to provide employee discounts
- Encourage employees to give feedback on what you can do better
By showing appreciation for all your employees, you’ll be creating a more positive workplace culture that encourages staff retention. However, be sure that your appreciation is appropriate for the effort of the employee. For example, you might partner with a corporate gifting company to send branded t-shirts to all of your employees at the end of a successful fundraising event. At the same time, you can also send flowers and gift cards to your highest performers. That way, everyone feels appreciated.
14. Change up the routine.
Sometimes the best thing you can do for your employees is to shake things up. A change in routine can be a lot of fun, relieve stress, and reset your team to be more productive. Try out one of these ideas:
- Hosting a work retreat
- Surprising your employees with catered breakfast or lunch
- Bringing in therapy dogs for employees to interact with for an afternoon
- Hosting meetings in different locations, like outside of your office building
- Switching out office chairs for exercise balls for a day
Monotony can turn into a retention risk. By demonstrating that your organization works hard to make each day fresh and new, you can make a positive impression on your employees.
15. Listen to your employees’ feedback.
To feel invested in their work and loyal to your organization, employees need to know that when they give their managers feedback, suggestions, or ideas, they are being heard. Surveys are a great tool for getting feedback from your employees. When employees can remain anonymous, there’s less pressure to keep their ideas to themselves and more encouragement to share what’s on their minds.
To learn more about surveys and to choose survey questions that will help you get actionable feedback, we suggest working with an HR consultant. A consultant can help you design a survey, administer it, understand the survey responses, and implement positive changes to make your organization a better place to work.
Employee loyalty is complex, and your employees’ feelings about your organization can change on a regular basis. However, when you apply the “secret sauce” and work to demonstrate your loyalty to your employees by applying the tips we’ve discussed in this article, you’ll start to see more dedication to and investment in your organization’s work.
To get expert help with your efforts to cultivate employee loyalty, reach out to an HR consulting firm like Astron Solutions. Astron Solutions can provide you with the services and solutions you need to improve your employer brand and keep your organization moving forward.
Interested in learning more? Check out these additional resources:
- How to Create an Effective Performance Management Process. Performance management involves everything your organization does to engage with and manage employees, which affects how your employees feel about you as an employer. Learn more about creating a better process.
- Compensation Consulting Firms: 12 Top Picks for Any Sector. It’s no secret that employees care about compensation. Check out our top 12 suggested compensation consulting firms to find an expert that can guide you in improving your approach to compensation.
- Working With a Nonprofit Human Resources Consultant: A Guide. Want to build stronger employee loyalty at your nonprofit? Working with an HR consultant who understands nonprofits’ needs is the best way to get started off on the right foot. Learn more in this guide!