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Many people ask me when I am working as an employee retention speaker or employee retention trainer what, more than anything, has killed employee loyalty and what can they do to improve their employee retention strategies.  That is a tough one because there are so many factors that go into why employees are loyal.  As I thought about it, I looked backed into the past and the slow deterioration of employee loyalty.  It really started back in the 1970’s.

“Back in the day,” the only people that ever got laid off were guys in the shop during a recession.  Then, when things picked up, they were recalled and returned to their old job.  That was the cycle.  Then I remember how in the 70’s and early 80’s that companies started to release managers when things got slow.  They never brought those people back because they spread out their work and had others doing it so when things picked up the companies noticed they could dump the other work on exempt/salaried employees and those people would do it for fear of losing their job if they didn’t perform.

Perhaps there was dead weight in companies.  But whose fault was that? The companies.  Instead of addressing performance issues, they used recessions or downturns as an excuse to clean out employees who may not have been performing or who were not politically astute or had pissed people off!  What happened was the good employees saw this and said, that could be me because many of the cuts had no sound rationale that people could really see.  It was all speculation.  In many cases, good people got cut because they weren’t good politicians or they were a threat to their boss who didn’t want to get cut.  Over the decades, this cycle reinforced that companies would cut as deep as they could to preserve the bottom line and heap other work on the remaining employees.

People aren’t stupid.  People also talk.  So, in this employee retention speaker’s viewpoint, people started to say, “If they aren’t loyal to me…why should I be loyal to them?”   And it has been spiraling downward ever since.  We now have a generation (the millennials) that have seen their parents, neighbors, parents of friends, etc. being laid off for no apparent reason.  And their parents started telling them that companies were no longer loyal so why should you be.  Now it has been reinforced for a generation and we wonder why the millennials look out for themselves.

The only way to combat this is to stop laying people off in you company every time things get tough.  Be loyal.  Deal with your performance issues instead of waiting for the cover of a recession.  Actions speak volumes.  This is tough to do because leaders have been conditioned for decades to do it another way.  Instead, we focus on the fancy fads like ping pong and foosball to retain people.  It’s time to get real and tell your employees…No Layoffs Here.