In it for the Long Haul: Why Long-Term Team Members are Good for Business

CEO Insights

I know sometimes as business owners and organizational leaders it is easy to complain about the loss of team members’ loyalty. It might be easy to think today’s workers aren’t interested in holding down the same steady job for years and are quick to leave their jobs the second they get a better opportunity.  

The question that’s being asked is if team member loyalty is dead? I don’t think so. 

There was a time earlier in my career when team members stayed with one company their entire professions. Though there’s little chance of those days coming back, we do have current workers who desire this to be their long-term destination. Creating an environment where team members want to stay long term can lead to significant satisfaction and fulfillment. I don’t think the picture is as bleak for the future as some business owners and organizational leaders view it.  

  • Millennials say they plan to work for their company for at least ten years. 
  • GenZers expect to stay with their current employer for six years.  

70% of those same workers say they’d consider leaving their current position if the right offer came along. It is also concerning that only 20% of workers report feeling engaged at work. 

Could it be that workers feel less loyal because they’re not seeing any reciprocation? If so, it’s time for business owners and organizations to acknowledge their role in eroding team member loyalty which encourages employee turnover. This acknowledgement likely won’t come from publicly traded or venture-supported companies as many are only looking at quarter-to-quarter financial results and not considering the long-term repercussions.  

The first step is leadership acknowledgement of their shortcomings, and then getting to work to change their organization’s culture. This change in culture should be one that promotes and embraces an environment for long-term employment through action not just words. This can create an environment that leads to lasting business success. 

The Current Workplace Landscape: Is It Even Possible to Retain Workers? 

The post-pandemic Great Resignation hit companies of all sizes and specialties. The revolving door because of shortage of talent was challenging for organizations in all sectors. Enterprises started trying to understand what they could do to retain their top performers amidst unprecedented job mobility, and many organizations felt powerless to halt the changing tide. The acceptance of a more virtual workforce has changed the dynamics of competing for talent.  

Though some workers attrition is inevitable, and there is no magic pill to stop it, there are proactive steps organizations can take to foster a stable, engaged workplace. Start by creating a culture of predictability and stability then prioritizing team members’ personal and professional development. Make it a priority to become more open and transparent about organizational policies, procedures, goals and objectives. Organizations can build a culture workers want to stay in that will lead to improvements in retaining team members while enhancing customer relationships and ultimately boosting their efficiency and productivity.   

How Workers Win When they stay 

Several factors contribute to team members losing faith in and feeling less loyal to their companies. 

  • Lack of job security. In previous times, business owners and organizational leaders offered workers more stable lifetime employment, including generous pension plans that incentivized longevity. Today, frequent company restructuring, outsourcing, and reduced or eliminated retirement plans have led to workers disenchantment and demotivation. Many feel their companies see them as only instruments to their financial results. 
  • Greater career mobility. The rise of the internet, social media, and online job boards makes it far easier for workers to explore and pursue other job opportunities. There’s also less concern about job-hopping and more acceptance that workers will move around. 
  • Shifting workplace norms. Younger generations entering the workforce don’t have the same priorities as the generations who came before them. They expect more work flexibility, remote and hybrid options, and prioritization of a work-life balance over blind loyalty to their owners or organization. It is important to come up with a win-win on balancing workplace, hybrid, and remote opportunities. While owners and organizational leaders are desiring more onsite work and recent surveys and indicators show productivity increases with personal interactions of team members, workers still want to have the flexibility that hybrid work gives them in their professional and personal lives.  
  • Stagnant compensation, training and advancement. Workers who feel stuck in their roles with no chance of upward mobility or greater pay see jumping ship as an appealing alternative to staying somewhere they don’t feel valued. Rewarding performance financially in a predictable and consistent manner, as well as investing in training to provide advancement opportunities to team members can provide reasons for workers to stay. Investing in training can also create team members who are more marketable but is a risk worth taking as you always want a high performing team. 
  • Respect and recognition. As the saying goes, people might forget the things you say, but they’ll always remember how you make them feel. Every team member wants to feel respected, praised and appreciated for their contributions to the company’s success and overall WIG’s (Wildly Important Goals). When they don’t, they’re more apt to go in search of owners or organizations who value their skills and loyalty. 

Improving retention rates requires effort from both sides, but organizations that expect and desire to keep team members for the long term must give them good reasons to stay. It can sometimes be as simple as reminding them of the benefits of staying with a company long term, including the opportunity to: 

  • Build family-like friendships and work relationships that add value to their lives in and outside the work environment. 
  • Create a legacy of achievements where you made a difference providing intrinsic value. 
  • Develop in-depth knowledge and expertise in a profession. 
  • Increase seniority and other benefits through longevity.  
  • Feel you are a valued part of building the company culture. 
  • Have predictability and stability.  

Business and organization leadership need to find ways to challenge team members so they learn, stretch their skills, and stay engaged. It’s also important to keep lines of communication open so workers know they have the support and ear of management. Fostering and rewarding team members’ development shows you’re invested in their future, and you care about their goals.  

Ultimately, if you want to increase workers’ loyalty and longevity, you need to give workers a reason to trust they’ll be rewarded for doing so. Financial incentives, honest treatment, transparent communication, and ethical behavior can help organizations gain credibility and foster loyalty. It is also important to encourage open dialogue, listening to team members’ concerns, empowering and involving team members in decision-making. 

How Workers Retention Benefits Customers 

Workers’ retention isn’t just good for the success of companies or organizations, it also directly benefits the customer experience. When a business struggles with high turnover, it creates disruption or chaos that can ripple out and negatively impact service quality and customer relationships. Each time a team member leaves, valuable knowledge walks out with them, including expertise in products, services, and customer accounts. Workers who remain must take on abandoned tasks, increasing their workload and impacting service quality with longer response times, dropped balls, and mistakes that frustrate customers and fellow workers alike. 

Stability in the workforce leads to more consistent and efficient teams, resulting in smoother operations and quicker response times that directly benefit customers via timely and relevant service. It also signals a positive company culture and a satisfied workforce, which customers often interpret as a sign of a business’s integrity and commitment to quality. 

Team members in it for the long haul provide consistency, a deep understanding of customer needs, and high-level, personalized service that customers appreciate. They’re able to resolve complex issues quickly, building a genuine connection and trust with customers over time. High retention rates also translate into less time and money spent on hiring and onboarding new team members, allowing more resources to be invested in customer-facing operations that ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty.  

Creating an Innovative Employee Retention Strategy 

Four basic employee retention principles can help foster a loyal workforce: 

  1. Develop and Communicate Clear Organizational Values and Goals

Having a well-defined simple set of core values provides workers with a unifying sense of purpose that goes far beyond just making profits, resonating on a deeper level while cultivating commitment and loyalty. Clearly articulating your organization’s vision and how each team member’s role helps to attain organization WIG’s is essential. Team member achievements and milestones that exemplify company values should be celebrated, helping to sustain a genuine culture that attracts passionate talent and encourages longevity. 

  1. Foster a Sense of Community and Belonging

Humans are hard-wired to want acceptance, respect, and to be a part of something greater than themselves. Organizations that prioritize an inclusive family community where team members feel they belong have a competitive advantage in retention. Treating everyone equally will create opportunities and relationships through team building, resource groups, mentoring, and events that can bring the company’s culture to life. When people feel a true connection with their colleagues, they’re more invested in staying. Make the work environment enjoyable and fun. 

  1. Encourage Open Communication and Transparency

Trust is the foundation for team members’ loyalty, and it can only be built with open, honest communication at all levels. Leaders should prioritize openness around key decisions, metrics, and future initiatives and provide consistent updates through regular meetings, both positive and negative. It’s essential to acknowledge mistakes, share the rationale for changes, and be responsive to team members’ questions and concerns. Promoting a “speak-up” culture where workers feel safe giving candid feedback without retribution is crucial. When workers don’t feel left out in the dark, trust in leadership and organization is built. 

  1. Support Career Goals and Advancement

Talented individuals will inevitably become dissatisfied and start job-searching if they don’t see opportunities to continuously grow their skills and advance their careers within their organization. Business owners and organizational leaders should invest in challenging professional development programs encompassing training, coaching, mentorship, and exposure to new roles. With the progression of AI, there is concern we might remove too much of the “gut feelings” of decision making. AI will disrupt industry roles and reskilling the workforce will become essential. Organizations will need to have development programs for team members to gain in-demand skills in automation, machine learning and provide solutions in intelligent workspaces. The availability of learning, incentives for certification and training along with internal mobility paths will show committed workers they have a future. It gives team members the opportunity to challenge the divine greatness instilled in each of them to grow and thrive in their abilities.  

By creating compelling worker experiences, you can build an engaged workforce that positions your organization as a leader in innovation, talent development, and customer satisfaction, setting the stage for stronger worker loyalty and long-term business success. Even though longevity has its merits it is also important for organizations to regularly assess their teams for complacency and skills as business evolves. In his book Good to Great Jim Collins talks about the importance of having the right people on the bus and in the right seats on the bus to build a great organization. So yes, team members longevity is good for your organization, but you need to have the discipline to know when to let some workers off the bus.  

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