Lately, I’ve heard more and more conversations, among friends, about people who are just comfortable at their job. They like the pay, they can work from home, their work/life ‘balance’ is unbalanced — in a good way. But in our client research, among employees, we hear about how staff is very loyal to their company because they are “proud” to work there (whatever that means). Our branding research is framed around uncovering the crux between why you join a company, but then also why you stay. Recently, we conducted nationwide focus groups for a company where the majority of current employees stated they were staying at their job for the paycheck only. Did you hear me? THE ONLY REASON. This is a large corporate America company —not an hourly blue-collar skilled job employer. Normally, when I do research, I find myself imagining a life working at that company. Now, I know most of the US needs to work just for a paycheck and isn’t at a job to make an impact or build themselves up professionally. But if you are experienced and skilled enough to have that opportunity, why are you staying at a miserable job just for the money? If it isn’t already obvious, it’s comfort. It’s almost like psychological laziness. Because the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.
So, ponder this with me: Why do you stay at your job?
We ask this all the time, in our research, and we normally get the same six responses (phrased in infinite ways). This isn’t a comprehensive list, but I sure hear these a lot.
“I can make an impact”
“I am working for a pioneering company who is doing ground-breaking work”
“The people and culture are phenomenal”
“I am paid well with money and benefits”
“I have the freedom and autonomy to get my job done right”
“I’m not in a stage of life where I want to look for another job”
I’m not at all saying that any of these things are bad or generic, but the majority of the time, we can call BS when an employee is just talking the talk. Typically, you can tell immediately, just by reading the sentiment of the room, to see how employees actually feel about their job. We love doing research, especially among employees, because we get a glimpse into the employer culture — we can hear it in the tone of their voice and how they answer our questions. To be honest, their actual responses are less meaningful than how they respond.
I digress. But what I realized is that many people are at their jobs because they are comfortable in their routine, even if it’s not actually that comfortable! Humans aren’t natural disruptors — we like routine. But routine can be manifested into a good thing, too. (This is my not so subtle segue into talking about loyalty). Loyalty to a job can be assimilated to passion. If you have a truly loyal employee, then that means you are fulfilling a different type of emotional need. You, as an employer, are taking care of them. You are fulfilling their need to feel like they are making change in the world, you are fulfilling their need to see their work come to fruition, you are fulfilling their need to feel wanted, you are taking care of their need to belong (because Forbes tells us 79% of employees leave their job because of lack of appreciation). Dang.
In short, loyalty is a sentiment that is so much stronger than comfort. It’s something that you can really feel when you hear an employee talk about their experiences. I think this is because they aren’t going to try and sell you on the experience with their words. They could use the simplest descriptors in the world, but you’ll be able to hear their authenticity. Nothing is worse than digging through buzzwords, to try and uncover an employer brand. Our job, as brand strategists, at CKR Interactive is to uncover an employment brand that we know already exists within your organization. It doesn’t need to be original or groundbreaking. It just needs to be authentically you. And loyal employees will be able to articulate this authenticity, whereas comfortable employees won’t. A solely comfortable employee will talk the talk and give you a million reasons (if they feel like trying to appease you) why they like working for their company, but your BS radar will go off once they use more than three buzzwords. If I wasn’t clear earlier, employment buzzwords include: innovate, impact, pioneering, nimble, culture, dynamic (helpful hint, if you ever hear an employee say this one, ask them what it means because most of the time, they can’t define it), unique, special, established.
This is not meant to sound jaded, but I think it, unintentionally, sounds that way. It’s meant to be inspiring. So go feel inspired already. Look for and acknowledge your loyal employees with positive feedback. This will go a long way for retaining talent, but also creating a positive environment (and will hopefully also weed out the ‘comfortable’ employees).
All in all, CKR loves unique insights, but we only like them when they are authentic to you and your employment experience. But don’t get me wrong, we’re also really great archeologists who can dig through all the buzzwords, if that’s what’s needed to get the job done.