Is Loyalty All that it is Cracked Up to Be?

With the job cutbacks that we see each day in person or in the press, I was intrigued with some comments from Jack and Suzy Welch in a recent column.

They wrote, “These days, it’s far more common for managers to protect and reward employees who consistently deliver results. We’re not saying that loyal employees aren’t given any due. When the economy is strong, a record of loyalty can be enough to ‘give cover’ to an employee with a mediocre performance. But when the going gets tough and staff reductions become necessary, the vast majority of mangers act in the best interests of the company. Their top performers will stay, loyal or not. And the marginal employees – again loyal or not – will be asked to move on.” [1]

As I read this, I could not help but think about membership. Members may stay loyal in the good times, but when economically pressed, members may very well follow the same decision process. They will renew membership with the organization that delivers real value and helps their performance.

[1] Jack and Suzy Welch, The Loyalty Fallacy, Business Week, January 19, 2009.


David M. Patt, CAE said...

That's true all of the time. Perhaps the bad economy will force associations to do what they should always have been doing.

Dan Ratner said...

I agree with you Tony. However, I do worry about those that may be loyal to our valuable resources yet find ways around paying dues to receive them (sharing pubs, finding it on the internet, asking others to purchase for them with a valid id number to get the discount, etc.) I know this is always happening and it is likely a very small percentage, but when times get this tough I think that segment may grow.

Tony Rossell said...

Dan -- Good point. Thanks for sharing. The groups that have the biggest "free loader" challenge are trade groups that build their dues around advocacy. The industry advocacy takes place whether they pay their dues or not. Tony

Lindy Dreyer said...

Tony - the parallel you draw between the column and membership is certainly worth considering. Folks will keep the memberships that are providing the most value and dump the ones that are not. We shouldn't doubt that.

Advocacy aside - there's really no way around the free loader issue there - it all comes back to the value question for me. We tend to assign value to resources based on the time, effort and money that went into creating those resources. It's easy to forget that the market actually defines the value of those resources. (I'm digressing...oops.)

Anonymous said...

Tony - your thoughts on loyalty remind me of an interview where NPR Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal spoke with Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren. When asked about the rebranding of local and well loved department stores like Marshall Fields and Filene's, Mr. Lundgren comments that he would not have rebranded those stores to Macy's if people were buying. It definitely demonstrates the gap between loyalty and involvement.

If you want to hear or read the full interview:

Tony Rossell said...

Good feedback everyone. I just posted on ASAE's recent research drawn from over 8,500 members of 97associations. It speaks to the loyalty factor. I think the scores members give their associations are lower than I would have hoped. Let's say they got a C+. Take a look under February 23rd. Tony