Striking a balance between worker loyalty and their work quality has never been challenged more than it is today. Even on an individual basis, managers and organisations struggle to arrive at the ‘economic value’ of their employees. Do we look at the tough talking figures of cost and productivity that we are hard pressed to deliver? Or do we consider the softer and more intangible values of loyalty, historic knowledge and customer relationships they hold?
Now add another employee in the equation – a younger new hire who is more tech-knowledgeable and savvy – and who brings in new skills and new energy that comes with his demographic profile.
What happens when such young and fresh blood is injected into a team that also holds the loyal veteran? Especially when the contrast in work capabilities, styles and output seems to work in the younger employee’s favor, placing the older member at a disadvantage?
A changing equation of realities and perceptions
Most certainly the equation changes in such a situation. Whether positively or negatively will depend on the all the three players concerned – and more so on the established older member and the manager.
The younger new hire getting noticed for his enhanced skills and pace of working is but natural – after all, he was hired to plug in a skill gap that existed in the team. How hard he performs and how well he is attuned to business outcomes will determine the extent to which attention will pivot on him. The spotlight could well be turned fully on the new entrant – leaving the older member a bit in the shade.
This is where reality can blur into perception. The older employee may wonder if his standing in the team and organisation is jeopardised. Could it be the end of the road for him? His scale of thinking stretches from concern to disappointment and resentment.
The manager has his own sets of realities and perceptions too. He acknowledges and understands the reality of the value that his long-term employee has given his team in the past. But now, looking at newer and more different value additions that the new hire is bringing in, perceptions seeps in. Was the long-term veteran getting a bit complacent and jaded? The manager’s thought process oscillates between feeling a positive bias for the new employee to disappointment (and even resentment) at the less-productive-high-cost long-term member.
Sifting through perceptions to insight-based action
When the going gets tough or when faced with choices, the focus is bound to change from the intangible values to tough figures. Both the long-term loyalist and the manager have to be cognizant of this in gathering their insights.
For the manager, it is a wake-up call on how to manage performance. When an employee shows the right behaviors and attitudes, it is his responsibility to ensure that such behavioral skills are channelised to show his member the path to enhanced and outstanding performance. By not providing clear expectations and feedback, or by not giving the necessary tools for employees to learn new and emerging skills to raise performance levels, the manager gives the message that it is acceptable to stagnate at good but average performance. Additionally, he opens the doors to a potential performer’s redundancy.
The employee, on the other hand, needs to understand that there is no one more responsible and accountable for his performance and development than himself. Before the perception sets in that someone else is valued more in spite of his loyalty, the reality must strike that it is up to him to seek the maximum value he can provide. While loyalty is a nice-to-have attitude, it certainly is not a ‘job-for-life’ or a ‘high-pay-steady-promotion’ guarantee. The search to add tangible value to himself and to the organisation must be proactive and consistent.
Ultimately, loyalty is about both personal and organisational success. Employee loyalty and profitability are powerful strands in an organisation’s DNA that need to linked by value-addition. There is tremendous payoff in improving the human element in an organization. Investing in employee capital builds a stockpile of customer stickiness, company history and high productivity. Newer employee can add immensely to this stockpile without taking away anything from the rich repository of the long-term champions.