You can be on Entrepreneur’s cover!

The Shifting Landscape Of Employee Loyalty: What Employers Need To Know About Keeping Their Employees The evolving landscape of the modern world has reshaped workplace loyalty, and today, it is measured by a different yardstick- impact.

By Natalia Sycheva

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Shutterstock

Every employer desires the loyalty of their employees, unequivocally. Employee loyalty for a company is a prudent business strategy. However, what if loyalty, as pre-millennial generations once knew it, is no more?

The question that looms large is whether the "future of jobs" revolves around technology or people. To address this effectively, let's first examine some figures that provide insights into the emerging trends. Over two-thirds of individuals are consistently on the lookout for new opportunities. Surprisingly, according to a 2023 Michael Page study, up to 98% of corporate employees are contemplating a shift to different roles. A comparable 75% of content software engineers, contentedly employed by tech startups, are actively exploring fresh prospects. The advent of the internet and technology has facilitated a rapid and expansive job search process.

Furthermore, the proliferation of success stories on social media adds to the allure of transitioning from a discontented employee to a triumphant business owner. For many, this perpetual vigilance and continuous exploration of alternative opportunities are responses to economic shocks post-2008, compounded by more recent challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Freelancing has become the new norm, and it is experiencing a significant upswing. In the United States alone, we have witnessed a growth in the number of freelancers from 57 million people to 64 million people in just the past four years. A recent study conducted by my company, Integra Seven, focusing on the Dubai tech sector sheds light on the "side hustle" mentality among employees, ranking among the top three challenges faced by tech founders in the Emirate as they endeavor to build their visionary ventures.

The same report highlights "the rise of freelancing and the emergence of the '2nd gig' work trend post-COVID-19, which present a dichotomy for tech entrepreneurs." On one hand, the increasing interest in freelancing enriches the talent pool by providing access to a diverse array of specialized skills. However, a significant challenge arises when developers concurrently juggle multiple jobs, potentially compromising their performance due to divided commitments. As all of this is happening, we are also witnessing the rise of "the lonely generation."

Source: Integra Seven

In recent years, a staggering one out of every three adults have said that they experienced loneliness, marking a significant societal trend. And as more individuals actively seek new opportunities for personal betterment, the path of choice increasingly tilts toward freelancing as a means to achieve transformative change. Paradoxically, in our pursuit of improvement and convenience, we find ourselves navigating the terrain of "the lonely generation."

SO… HOW DID WE GET HERE?

In times past, workplace loyalty was predominantly defined by longevity, reflecting the number of years -or even decades- an individual would dedicate to a single employer. However, the evolving landscape of the modern world has reshaped the paradigm, and today, loyalty is measured by a different yardstick- impact. To navigate this transition, companies must adapt and redefine their understanding of loyalty, as well as explore novel ways to measure it. But before we delve into the strategies for this shift, it's essential to identify the contributors to the demise of traditional loyalty. Assigning blame to employees is a common narrative, often depicting the new generation as unwilling to invest the same level of hard work and commitment as their predecessors. The focus on building startups, or aspiring to become influencers on platforms like TikTok, is seen as a departure from the traditional notion of "productively contributing to society."

On the other hand, blame is also placed on employers. Corporate mission statements and value lists are criticized as outputs of clever public relations (PR) firms, many of which seem to have been sentences crafted by ChatGPT. Although these statements sound noble, they often lack real-life application in the daily interactions between employees and managers, employees and clients, and among employees themselves. Market forces also play a pivotal role. The concept of "optimization" is often cited as a justification for companies relentlessly pursuing cost reduction. While it's acknowledged that the objective of any enterprise is to maximize output and minimize costs, the constant bombardment of messages predicting job displacement due to automation or artificial intelligence erodes employee confidence and loyalty.

Related: How Mentorship Programs Can Lift Underrepresented Employees In The Workplace

The pervasive narrative about jobs disappearing and the imminent threat of robots taking over further compounds the challenge. The intertwining of these factors creates a complex operating environment, making it challenging for employees to feel confident about their future job security, for founders to invest in employees engaging in side hustles, and for governments to adapt to the dynamic and structural shifts in the labor market, while ensuring societal cohesiveness and the overall health of a nation. Addressing these multifaceted challenges requires a collective effort from employees, employers, and policymakers alike, fostering an environment that values both individual impact and collective well-being.

Source: Integra Seven

THE WAY FORWARD: REDEFINING WORKPLACE LOYALTY

Unlike the implementation of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, where complexities can be systematically addressed, installing a "solution" for human relationships in the workplace is not a straightforward process. However, there are strategies and approaches that companies can adopt to make the leap from measuring loyalty based on longevity, to loyalty defined by impact. This is what I am calling the x2R formula- and it can be explained as follows:

1/The first "R": Relationships The first "R" in the transformation from measuring loyalty through longevity to loyalty defined by impact stands for "relationships." It involves fostering connections that extend beyond the conventional employer-employee dynamic. To achieve this, companies need to focus on building life-long relationships with their employees. Business managers play a crucial role in this endeavor. They should be prepared to engage in open and honest conversations with their employees. This involves expressing expectations for outstanding contributions to the business, while assuring individuals that they will be challenged, supported, treated fairly, and even celebrated if they choose to pursue alternative paths in the future. The emphasis is on creating relationships that extend beyond the confines of the traditional employer-employee relationship.

Examples from companies putting this into practice abound. For instance, Ahoy, a prominent tech startup from Dubai, besides offering a system of perks and benefits for their dynamic teams, organizes networking and mentorship sessions specifically tailored for its alumni who have moved on to launch their own tech ventures. Similarly, Deloitte Middle East maintains a strong connection with its former employees through its regular Alumni newsletter, fostering a sense of community among those who have been part of the organization. By embracing the importance of building life-long relationships, companies can lay the foundation for enduring connections, understanding that the ties they build with their employees are not limited to the duration of their tenure, but are, in fact, for life. This commitment contributes to a workplace culture where individuals feel valued, supported, and empowered to thrive both within and beyond the organization.

2/The second "R": Rapid experimentation The second "R" in the evolution of loyalty from longevity to impact represents "rapid experimentation," a pivotal strategy for both enhancing the impact of employees on a business, and for reducing the cost of investment in new initiatives, programs, products, and services. This involves adopting an open strategy and integrating rapid experimentation into the organizational DNA. The open strategy approach, initially articulated by professors from Warwick Business School in 2021, emphasizes the power of crowd-sourced idea generation within competitive organizations led by confident leaders. While harnessing the intelligence and experience of employees for idea generation is essential, the challenge lies in the implementation of these ideas, without causing disillusionment among the workforce.

Source: Integra Seven

Enter rapid experimentation, a methodological approach embedded in the organizational DNA, and documented as a structured process. Rapid experimentation allows companies to test hypotheses regarding new services for clients or programs for employees through short-term, cost-constrained business experiments. By establishing clear metrics of success, organizations can discern and filter ideas for further development and piloting. Contrary to traditional corporate innovation competitions with subjective judging at annual ceremonies, the rapid experimentation methodology advocates for continuous validated learning through data.

This approach minimizes emotional biases, encourages a readiness to pivot, and fosters a culture of adaptability. By embracing a lean approach to business innovation, companies can create a dynamic environment that encourages innovative thinking, accelerates the development of impactful initiatives, and ensures a more efficient allocation of resources. This agile approach enables organizations to navigate the evolving landscape of business challenges, fostering a culture where experimentation is not just tolerated, but celebrated as a key driver of progress. Now, neither of the solutions outlined -building life-long relationships and adopting rapid experimentation- is inherently easy. Both require a transformative shift in leadership mindset and organizational culture, whether for small enterprises or large corporations.

The challenges lie in navigating uncharted territory, breaking away from traditional norms, and embracing a mindset that values adaptability and continuous improvement. But in the context of employers and employees in Dubai, the city itself serves as an inspiring role model. Dubai has consistently demonstrated a remarkable ability to experiment, pivot to what works best, and continually innovate. By drawing inspiration from the city's success, enterprises in Dubai -and elsewhere- can learn to embrace change, and pave the way for a future where loyalty is defined not just by longevity, but by the lasting impact and meaningful relationships forged between employers, employees, and the broader community.

Related: Here's What You Need To Know About Making The Shift From Being An Employee To Becoming An Entrepreneur

Natalia Sycheva

Founder and Managing Director, Integra Seven

Natalia Sycheva is the founder and Managing Director of Integra Seven, an enterprise that helps large and legacy organizations with the evolution and revolution of their business models, by creating new services, establishing new units, and building human capacity to run business efficiently. The company believes in public-private partnerships, and considers it a privilege to work with governmental organizations on public policy advancement through research and program management. Integra Seven is also passionate about nurturing entrepreneurship ecosystems around the world through our work with private and public sector initiatives, universities, venture capitalists, and, of cause, entrepreneurs. 

Side Hustle

This Dad Started a Side Hustle to Save for His Daughter's College Fund — Then It Earned $1 Million and Caught Apple's Attention

In 2015, Greg Kerr, now owner of Alchemy Merch, was working as musician when he noticed a lucrative opportunity.

Business News

I Designed My Dream Home For Free With an AI Architect — Here's How It Works

The AI architect, Vitruvius, created three designs in minutes, complete with floor plans and pictures of the inside and outside of the house.

Business Plans

7 Steps To A Winning Business Proposal

Seven essential steps to guarantee you get the contract.

Thought Leaders

These Are the Five Attributes of Highly Successful and Happy People

If you'd like to be happier or more successful this year, then ask yourself if you're truly exuding these five attributes. The happiest and most successful people I know execute on these game-changers exceptionally well.

Business News

A Look Inside the Company That Is Making $500 Million a Year Serving Italian Beef Sandwiches Made Famous by 'The Bear'

Portillo's CEO Michael Osanloo shares his secret to keeping hungry customers coming back again and again. (Hint: It requires a lot of napkins.)

Legal

Why the Law Needs More Entrepreneurs

The writing's on the wall: The legal industry is crying out for change. That's why we need more lawyers breaking the mold.