Guest post from Lee Caraher:
The great lament of so many leaders and managers today is that “no one is loyal anymore.” With millions of millennials pegged as “job hoppers” who “leave before they even get productive,” older managers are increasingly unwilling to put in the effort to help develop and train their younger colleagues. The logic goes – “why should I put my effort into helping these people when they’re just going to leave me and I’ll have to start all over again.”
Oh, the good old days, when people stayed where you wanted them for as long as you wanted them to and retired with a golden watch and some balloons.
Yeah. Those good old days are long gone, if they ever existed at all. And not because people changed, but because companies stopped honoring the implicit contract that permeated American business: you work hard and the company will take care of you. Employees today know that they can’t count on a company to take care of them, and that they need to craft their own career with building blocks of job experiences that keep them relevant, and increasingly valuable. Add to that their desire to be both interested in and satisfied with the impact of their work.
The old loyalty paradigm is dead, and it’s time for us to switch from measuring employee loyalty by length of employment, to an entire career lifetime regardless of whether a paycheck is involved or not. This is the Boomerang Principle: the belief that organizations that allow and encourage former employees to return have a strategic advantage over those that don’t.
Consider these points to help prepare you for this new mindset:
● When you hire someone, you know they are going to leave you. Instead of worrying about when they’re going to leave, focus on helping your employees be as valuable as possible while they’re with you;
● It’s unlikely that one organization could offer the range of opportunities – skills, positions, locations, terms, or dynamics – that every employee will want over the course of their careers. Instead of treating former employees as “dead to you,” consider the skills that they will gain away from your company and figure out how you can get them to return when they are more valuable to you in the future;
● With every former employee, you have the opportunity to INCREASE your footprint in the business world. Creating an environment and relationship that keeps former employees informed and attached to your company can pay off in exponential ways after they leave you in terms of potential clients, partners and advocates in the industry and community. Better to have people proud of their association with you, than actively preferring not to recommend your company as an employer or a provider.
● When you create a “culture of return” you create a “culture to remain.” Environments that are worthy to return to – where people are welcomed to return – are generally more positive, more high-performing, more productive and more profitable than those that aren’t. These types of positive organizations are hard to leave just to leave, and have much lower employee turnover rates than those organizations that treat their former employees as pariahs.
And now, how can you create a culture of return? Here are 5 steps to creating a Boomerang culture.
1. Kill the counter offer: Stop countering people with higher salaries when they tell you they are leaving. Don’t do it. Instead treat people who are moving on to different opportunities well and welcome them to return in the future if the time is right. Fellow employees know when a business counters exiting employees, and it creates an incredibly negative dynamic and resentment among teams. Stop feeding any negativity you can.
2. Stay connected in real, meaningful ways: Stay in touch with your former employees. If you haven’t done this in a while, make a list of the people who left your company in the last 24 months. Over the next six to twelve months, reconnect with all of them in some way – from meeting for dinner to connecting on LinkedIn. Show interest in where they are and what they’re doing.
3. Insist on and train great managers: Make sure your managers are actively involved in their team members’ development plans. Reward managers for helping their colleagues to succeed and reach their own goals. When organizations are demonstrably invested in their employees, people feel more loyalty towards them and are more willing to make good things happen in the workplace.
4. Start a company-sponsored alumni program: If you can’t create your own online platform, start with a private Facebook group with your former employees and current team leaders in it. Share company updates, learning opportunities and discounts or other opportunities with your alumni. Ask your alumni for their recommendations for people to fill open positions; reward every referral with a token of appreciation. When you keep a relationship going with your former employees, they are more apt to recommend your company as a vendor, partner or employer – this shortens recruiting, biz dev and sales cycles by many cycles.
5. Tout the quality of the staff you’ve had: You’ve created a great thing here, be proud of that. Showcase your company alumni in the alumni network. Post interviews with former employees that detail their current positions and lives; ask them to comment on how their time with your company prepared them for their current jobs. The more you demonstrate that you’re proud that they are proud of their time with you, the more valuable you become to your former, current and future, employees.
Thinking about and then putting in place mechanisms that help you inspire employees to be loyal to your organization for their entire careers – not just their tenure – is a paradigm shifting exercise. By applying the Boomerang Principle – the belief that organizations that allow and encourage their former employees to return have a strategic advantage over those that don’t – your company will increase happiness in the workplace – happiness that translates right down to the bottom line.
Lee Caraher is the founder and CEO of Double Forte a national PR and social media agency working with beloved brands in the consumer, technology and wine categories. Her second book, The Boomerang Principle: Inspiring Lifetime Loyalty From Your Employees, (Bibliomotion/Taylor & Francis) available now for pre-order, launches April 11, 2017.