Redefining Loyalty

Vol. 5 No. 9

riskmanager eletter Vol5 No9 engagmentcircle

When it comes evaluating employees, or, even reenrolling vested families, often loyalty is taken into consideration. The longer their tenure, the more vested they are, the more irreplaceable they are. If an employee stays onboard, he/she must live and breathe the mission and vision of your school, right? If a family reenrolls, they must believe in the culture of your school, right?

Not necessarily.

“Loyalty” has benefits. “Loyalty” is what every school seeks in not just its faculty and staff, but also from its families. There is no mistaking the promotional power often associated with returning families and tenured employees. Their relationships with people in the community is an organic way for your school’s culture to stay fresh within varying circles. You simply can’t pay for that type of marketing! No agency in the world has ever been able to out perform word-of-mouth advertising.

Let’s not forget that long-term employees offer wisdom to teams, can often perform tasks quicker than newer employees, and help cultivate internal employee loyalty. These are the positives of “loyalty.”

However, the traditional way we define loyalty, often associated with the number of years one serves an organization, is on the decline. Some research blames younger generations claiming they lack focus; some research blames the economy; and some studies point the finger at corporations for reducing incentives. But, regardless of what study you’re reading at the moment, the end result is the same—people aren’t staying in one place until retirement any longer.

Loyalty as it's traditionally defined isn’t necessarily a benefit.

Trending in the HR World recently published an article addressing trends in employment loyalty. In the article, Dissed Loyalty, they mention the HR world is moving away from talking in terms of “loyalty” and moving toward talking in terms of “employee engagement”. This broader term includes commitment and advocacy for both the job and their employer.

The HR world is trying to differentiate between loyalty, which includes years of service, from engagement which includes advocacy. Why, you wonder? Because—let’s be honest—not all of the employees who have been working for your school for the past four decades are mission-appropriate or supportive of your culture.

We work with schools every day that have faculty members in their classrooms not because they’re positive influencers of the school’s mission, but because these schools feel obligated to keep them onboard since they’ve been working there for forty years. Loyalty needs to be thought of as more than years of service—in schools as well as in corporate settings.

Personal Reflection

As you settle in to write your personal reflections for the year or evaluate those who report to you, take a few moments to consider not just how many years are under their belts, but yet, how engaged in your school mission you and/or your employees are. If your school has a clear mission statement, take some time before putting the first pencil marks on paper to really think about how that impacts your daily routine, how it impacts the way you interact with others in the community, and how it impacts the way you interact with colleagues.

If the mission doesn’t affect you, well, then it might be time to find a mission that better compliments your personal beliefs. That same harshness also applies to your school’s loyal faculty and staff—and, if you’re involved with Admissions, it can even apply to your families.

Evaluating Faculty and Staff

Go through the same mental drill down with each employee you have to evaluate. If you are evaluating others and your school hasn’t evolved it’s evaluation process to a professional development focused, mentoring system, you might not have notes collected throughout the year that are needed to have a conversation centered around engagement. (Our Comprehensive Faculty Development/Teaching Excellence II Package can help with this!)

If you are evaluating faculty and staff based on a traditional checklist, don’t toss aside the idea of measuring their engagement with your school’s mission or with your department’s goals. Instead of “reviewing” them based on your assumptions of their advocacy, jot down a few questions that might ignite deeper conversations. Reflect on how you answered the question. Share this process with those you’re evaluating and encourage them to reflect and share their interpretation.

Facing the reality that you might not be a good fit for your school, or having tough conversations with faculty and staff about their level of engagement, is not easy. For the unconfrontational, the thought of it could make your heart race. Yet, try to think of it this way—a lack of loyalty is toxic to your whole school community. It can result in poor work performance, gossiping, cliques, higher absenteeism and employee turnover (exactly what you’re trying to reverse), and loss of trust.

Change starts at the top. As a leader, you have to be brave enough to admit your own flaws and commit to improving upon your weaknesses. You also need to be brave enough to part ways with those truly toxic to your school’s mission and future. Loyalty isn’t defined any longer as how long someone stays on board—it’s defined as how engaged they are with your mission.

Additional ISM resources:
ISM Monthly Update for Business Managers Vol. 10 No. 5 Why Business Managers Need to Care About Teacher Evaluation
Private School News Vol. 11 No. 2 ISM’s New Faculty Evaluation Template
ISM Monthly Update for Risk Managers Vol. 10 No. 8 Re-Designing Your Teacher Evaluation Process

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