The loyalty paradox

Executives say they value loyalty in employees—but the realities in the workplace are more complicated.

Our global surveys reveal misunderstandings between employees and executives over what is most important at work. While there are substantial variances by country, executives overall value loyalty in their employees more than job performance. And while employees believe the ability to learn and be trained quickly is the most important quality to their bosses, executives say the most important quality is a high level of education or institutional training.

Executive survey: What employee attributes are most important to you? Choose top 3.Employee attributes - Oct 13

Executives are not only more likely to rank loyalty among top employee attributes than qualities like diversity and leadership ability, they also cite lack of employee longevity and loyalty as a leading barrier to meeting strategic workforce goals. Despite these concerns, they do not seem to know—or are not focused on—how to engender loyalty, given that in most cases they are not offering the benefits and incentives most important to employees.

But loyalty is a two-way street. Employees focused on career development can show their managers and higher-ups commitment to the company through self-directed learning and other development initiatives. These efforts to learn and grow will show managers when employees are committed to moving up in the company—and in the meantime, they might assuage some fears of obsolescence.

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