Thoughts on loyalty
Loyalty is an interesting concept to think about in the world we live in today.
Professional sports have clearly shown us that loyalty today is very different than it was years ago. Athletes generally go for where they can get the top dollar (LaBron James even had a ESPN special to show how disloyal he was, when he announced that he was leaving Cleveland). We also see many bandwagon fans (I have seen my fair share this past year, being a San Francisco Giants fan since I was 3 years old, finding now that a lot more people I know are “big fans” of the Giants in the last year).
(Although in a less flashy manner) We see the same thing with our careers nowadays. Gone are the days where you work at one company for 30+ years and retire with a pension (very few companies still even have a pension). In fact, I feel pretty weird that I am one among very few people I know who have been with the same company since graduation (6+ years).
Why has this loyalty disappeared? In the corporate world, sometimes it is about the “big bucks” that we can get elsewhere, but I think a lot of it has to do with variety. As Gen Y’s we are used to things coming in 4 year increments. We go to High School for 4 years, and College for 4 years (the last year of each is spent looking for the next step- college or finding a job, respectively). Because of this we are conditioned to want to do something new every few years. This one (of a few) reason(s) why I have seen many people I know go back to graduate school, in part because they need variety and also because they have no idea what they want to do in their careers.
In order to keep the attention of young professionals, companies need to find ways to create this variety. I know at my company, AT&T, managers are able to get experience in many areas of the business. Even at the highest level, our CEO was previously COO and CMO, even though most of his early career experience was in finance. Since joining (and partially because of a rotation leadership program), I have worked in sales operations, customer service, marketing, network operations, business development and sales. This variety is one of the primary things that have kept me with the company.
The other thing I realized about loyalty was how closely it is tied to an individual over the entire company. At the end of last year my boss of 3 years moved from California to take on a position in Texas. He had been a great role model, mentor and leader. He always looked out for me and because of that I worked hard for him. He rewarded me with exposure to the “higher ups” and put me up for sought after recognition. I was very committed to my job. When he left and a new boss stepped in his place, I realized how much of my loyalty and dedication was because of him. Previously I wouldn’t have imagined finding another position in the company, let alone leaving the company to work for another firm. As soon as he left, I found that my eyes and thoughts began to wonder a bit more, and I started actively looking for something new.
Loyalty is important. Not only for our own senses of accomplishment and belonging (since it makes us feel like we are part of something and can reward us handsomely) but also with other people. Once you foster loyalty within others (them being loyal to you), then they will work harder and be more motivated to work with you.