Thursday, January 5, 2012

Loyalty in the New Age

Who's in?
In a prior (long ago) post I looked at what it takes to build a team, which is at its best, a collection of Talent. Organizations around the world work hard to recruit the "right" talent, the people who will add to their team. As a Producer who has worked closely with a number of the best organizations in the world on meetings and incentive programs we see how hard these same organizations strive to create programs designed to reward hard work and increase loyalty. We see employee engagement surveys, performance reviews and SMART goal setting and succession planning all designed to inspire employees. As event professionals, we build unique, once in a lifetime experiences that employees can aspire to be rewarded with, and when they leave, we see the tangible results of a well planned program in their smiles and warm goodbyes as they thank the team - both their management as well as the on the ground support teams - for this incredible experience.

This all works. We see the employees who are working often long hours and being constantly available to their clients and the demands of the clients, making deals and high-fiving (literally or figuratively) when "success" is achieved. This success is often tied to revenue generated, often due to sales made, and occasionally to incredible service provided, when it surpasses expectations and is noted by a client or colleague. This is the norm in many organizations, across all sectors. Recruit well, develop talent committed to success, grow the organization, reward the talent - this can include saying thank you, offering public recognition in meetings, or providing tangible rewards with cash or prizes or, the ultimate, an experiential trip usually shared with a special guest, often a supportive spouse or partner.

We all know many hard working people. The more our world goes on line, the more it is assumed we will be available at all hours and on all days. We can now do nearly everything on line, increasing not only the time we spend available to others on line, but the amount of things we now all do for ourselves at work that may have in the past required support staff - from courier dispatch to travel booking, and everything in-between. We seek jobs that will provide us with job satisfaction, where we can feel part of a collective greater than ourselves with values we believe in, and where we want to be part of the success. We are chosen, we fit ourselves in, work hard, and have loyalty to where we work.

There is some criticism of the millenial generation that perhaps because they are better than the previous generation at setting boundaries, that they are not as committed. The current research shows that they are not perhaps as loyal to an organization but perhaps more loyal to their particular leaders within that organization, and yes, they are better at "turning work off". In my experience they work very efficiently at work and produce incredible results time and again. I think there are lessons to be had here, that perhaps work should not be the be all end all that we can make it when we commit to an organization and make work a priority.

Here is another reality I have seen more perhaps in the last decade, and have certainly been on the receiving end of (when an organization closed suddenly). Organizations, even those that invest resources and energy in creating loyalty, are quite simply not that loyal back. I would bet we all know someone whose life has been turned upside down when one day the doors where they work close suddenly (horrible, I can assure you) turning out a workforce into a quiet economy, or when they are suddenly, without warning and without cause finding themselves being walked out, their jobs eliminated, no chance to say good-bye or clear out any personal items from their desk. The iPhones and blackberries, laptops and filled rolodexes removed. Shame felt when there is no reason for shame, the organization has "decided to make a change" or "eliminated this role" and "it's not personal, it's just business." Of course, the organizations and the leaders who make these decisions have reasons for making these decisions and often these are financial and certainly nobody out of that decision making process is privy to the details, as it should be and will of couse remain. Sometimes this is fast, like a bandaid mercilessly ripped, and sometimes, as I have had friends go through it is a long and arduous "who will go next to meet the required numbers?" Loyalty destroyed, hope ripped open, and trust eroded, in the space of a heartbeat.

Disbelief settles in. So what are we to do when we find ourselves on the receiving end of an organizations need to move forward without us? Here is one of the best posts I have ever read on Life After Layoffs by meeting professional Arlene Sheff - heartwrenchingly honest, and worth the read.

The harsh reality I see is that this cycle won't change. Loyalty will be sought and rewarded, often to degrees that are awesome when you are a leader in your organization. This will ensure that loyalty programs and incentives have a healthy future, good for the meeting industry. Often though you can work as hard, as efficiently and with as much passion for your job and your clients,  and just as quickly this can be taken away - the message may be delivered by one person, they are often in the position of being a messenger without having been the decision maker - a time not enjoyable for anyone.

 So what can we do to protect ourselves? I surely do not have the answer to that question... maybe you have a suggestion or two?

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