Aad JCM van Vliet. Employee loyalty: How leadership can help retain talent

Employers are challenged these days not just to find new employees but even just to keep those they have. The role of leaders in companies is becoming ever more important. 

Aad JCM van Vliet, a lecturer at BMI Executive Institute and founder and partner at Avvartes, spoke about leadership in relation to employee engagement and retention. 

Uniting for a meaningful purpose

In the field of HR, companies today face many challenges. New generations are joining the labour market, with their own priorities and expectations. Aad JCM van Vliet notes that we will soon have representatives of five different generations interacting in the workplace. Moreover, the pandemic has caused or sped up a transformation of the world of work.

Leaders are greatly needed in the current reality who can ensure employee engagement, satisfaction and loyalty: “Today you can’t buy employee loyalty with money. Loyalty is achieved, above all, by offering a meaningful goal, an idea employees can identify with and to which they would like to dedicate their time and effort. A meaningful goal improves employee engagement and, at the same time, company results,” Mr van Vliet says.

The need is for leaders who can bring employees together for a common purpose and provide meaning while identifying people’s strengths and helping develop them.

Opportunities for continual growth

According to the BMI expert, when the younger generations assess employers, the focus on criteria such as honesty, equal pay and career opportunities, opportunities for continual growth and development, psychological health and flexibility.

Company leaders needs to foster both their own and their team’s strengths, highlighting them so as to brings people together for a common goal. Employees, meanwhile, expect an employer to provide opportunities and conditions for continuous growth.

“The paradigm of continuous learning brings many advantages to a modern organization. The growth-oriented mindset is based on an assumption that it is always possible to learn new things, develop new skills and expertise, advance another step in one’s personal and professional development,” Aad JCM van Vliet notes.

Use of coaching and mentoring 

In creating the conditions for an organization to develop, Mr van Vliet believes it makes sense to use coaching and mentoring practices. Coaching helps employees learn to adapt to an ever-changing work environment and get helpful advice and support. That helps reveal an employee’s full potential.

Mentoring, meanwhile, can speed up the learning process and help employees bring out their strengths.

“Research shows that mentoring brings tangible benefits to a company. For example, a survey Deloitte conducted in 2016 found that 68% of employees with mentors planned to stay in their organization for more than 5 years, while only 32% of those without mentors linked their long-term future to their current workplace,” the lecturer and consultant says.

He adds the increasing popularity of reverse mentoring, where newcomers to a company share their insights and experience with ‘old-timers’. That brings fresh ideas into the organization and helps older employees make friends with the latest technologies faster.

Focus on people’s mental health 

Aad JCM van Vliet stresses the importance of leadership in areas like work-life balance, flexibility and mental health. That has become even more relevant during the pandemic when many companies started working remotely or introduced a hybrid work model.

“Today’s leader must be able to notice anxiety or tension on a team, signs of employee burnout, and identify their possible sources. To that end, leaders should seek to develop their emotional intelligence and get a better grasp of how the brain functions, what drives employee motivation and engagement. They should promote a listening culture and create a working environment conducive to psychological health,” the expert stresses.

He says emotional intelligence and good self-awareness are often more important for managers than high IQ, since only someone who can manage themself is able to lead others forward.He adds that only mature leadership and a clear vision of employees’ needs can allow us to expect employees to be loyal and engaged. In times like these of uncertainty, constant change and need for rapid adaptation, that is a condition for companies to retain and develop the talent they need and thus their competitiveness.