Sunday, 26 September 2010 00:00

Loyalty: The Ever Changing Company-Employee Relationship

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Loyalty. I have heard a lot about loyalty lately. It focuses on a company's loyalty to their employees. The current stormy economic condition means layoffs and employees on both sides of the pink slip are unsettled. Albeit, conditions today bare a stronger semblance to a hurricane stalled over the employment sector, while Wall Street seems to be holding its own, when the floodwaters subside both employees and employers will be on more fertile ground. As opposed to straining loyalty to its breaking point, it is only taking on a new form.

Goal Based Loyalty

The last thirty years have seen the demise of the typewriter, secretary, interoffice memorandum, mail, and pensions. This has affected the role of employees more than any other thirty-year period. Hence, even in my working career, the office space has been transformed from smoke filled conference rooms with men who had worked for the same company for their thirty years, to online meetings with avatars. The company provides me with a laptop, assumes I have an Internet connection, I manage my retirement funds, and half of my co-workers are contractors. Many would say that company loyalty is gone.

However, the other day when visiting a company where, after stepping over the rubber chicken just inside the front door, I saw piles of toddler toys and there were just as many ExerSaucers as there were employees at their desks. An hour later, when I left, a bull terrier escorted me to the door. Today employees (and contractors) can work from home, take kids to the office, and communicate in 140 characters or less at the speed of the Internet. Their goals are different. Those of their companies' are too.

The difference is that today loyalty is goal based. By definition, this makes the loyalty time dependent—goals change to meet the demands of the environment. Businesses needing to enter a new market shift their loyalty to the resources that share those goals. Employees that do not make that shift, lose out on the loyalty. Likewise, employees that develop new goals that are not inline with the company's should move on to new opportunities; the association becomes impotent. It is in the best interests of all parties so their relocation is not frowned upon.

The End Of The Thirty-Year Veteran?

Many may think this is the end of the "lifer." We all know that guy or gal that has been at the company for twenty or thirty years and has risen to an untouchable state—even as a non-performer. No one will fire them, they do not move to new assignments, and the age-old respect for tenure immunizes them against criticism. These dinosaurs are slowly dying out as younger more flexible individuals move through the organization. The lifer will still exist; however, they will be malleable, adventurous, and maintain goals in a manner that meets those of the company.

The beast headed for extinction, holds the status quo, abhors change, and hordes information to maintain their relevance. They take on many shapes and sizes. Some are prima donnas, thinking their views are the end-all and be-all; others are political monsters that twist situations to their advantage. The best action for these people is to ask them to find new positions.

The Contractor Model

Contractors by definition are the ultimate of goal-based contributors. For a contractor, or consultant, to remain viable, they must align their goals to their client's. A good statement of work (SOW) enumerates those goals to ensure alignment. Whatever their engagement, contract, or project, if they are misaligned, their company will eventually fail.

In this respect, the objectives of contractors and employees have merged. Both needs to either seek out companies with mutual goals or change their goals to match the companies. The employee has a lot to learn from the contractor—the SOW. Employees need to clearly understand their company's goals and aspire to met them or move to an internal or external situation that allows them to. This is incumbent on both the employee and the employer to achieve this. The business environment has no room for misalignment.

Loyalty Stills Exists

Loyalty still exists, but, as with so many aspects of business, it just takes a different form and it will keep changing as the world around us changes. I doubt it will reach the state where all jobs are contract based, however, the model will continue to increase. The demands of the younger generation entering the workforce will further enforce this model, as they are more goals oriented and driven by personal gain. Businesses will adapt to this model quickly as it accommodates developing a lean running organization that acquires resources on an as-needed basis. Immutable boomers entrenched in their positions will struggle. They will be the toll of the current economic storm.

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