Lack of employee loyalty is nothing new – Here is the cure

Sept. 16, 2022
Hiring and retaining employees is tough today, but consider these two simple questions: Is this really a new condition and have you changed your strategy as an employer?

One chronic business issue that I frequently hear about is lack of loyalty among employees. Often, operators will frame the conversation in a context that makes it seem to be a new condition, attributable to the pandemic, Generation Z, “quiet quitting” or the “great resignation,” all popular new reasons for staffing mayhem.

Is this really a new condition?

It is easy to suggest that it’s never been so tough to hire and earn loyalty among employees. In reality, there is nothing new about it. Hiring quality people, keeping them motivated and ultimately converting them into loyal team members has never been easy. What has changed is the job market itself. Companies like Amazon, Starbucks and other tech innovators (despite the calls for unionization at many) have elevated pay and benefits. That makes it tougher for operators to find quality drivers, techs and customer service staff, because the convenience services industry is hard work. Try running a route – it can be brutal.

Are you paying enough?

An operator recently told me that drivers would often quit after a week, complaining that running a route is way too much work, compared to driving for Amazon. My response: "Have you thought about increasing your wages?"

What is the cure for lack of employee loyalty? How do we find quality new hires?

Pay above market

Overall, the key is to make employees feel valued. It all starts with paying above the prevailing wage and offering excellent benefits. While that does not always work, it will give you a much better chance to find the people you need. What other choice do you have? Would you rather have managers running routes while you spin your wheels with the hiring process?

The wage issue goes beyond route drivers and techs. Customer service people and sales reps (especially) respond well to being valued and paid generously. Paying above market for quality people was the philosophy at my company, Gourmet Coffee Service (sold to Canteen in 2017), and it worked. We had just under 100 employees.

How can you afford it? By using technology to run your company more efficiently. Make your managers focus on optimizing performance, which might mean less staff. They can do that when they are not out running routes.

Earning loyalty

Once you hire a quality person, the process of earning loyalty begins, and it takes effort – an ongoing, companywide commitment that will pay for itself many times over.

According to Paul Spiegelman, an entrepreneur, author, speaker, philanthropist and corporate culture enthusiast, today’s employees want more than just a paycheck.

Three things that employees want

“I think everybody wants, in any size company, the same three things,” Spiegelman said in a recent BNY Mellon podcast. “They want to feel that there's a purpose there beyond the job. They want to feel appreciated and valued for the work that they do. And they want to feel like there's an opportunity to learn and grow.”

“The old command and control style of leadership honestly worked for years and enabled companies to really grow. But things started to change, and people wanted something different. And leaders have to be honest and vulnerable. They have to open up with their team,” he added.

Show them that you care

In the podcast, Spiegelman also said it starts with all the mission, vision, values – the things we used to put as a plaque on a wall, but really are the defining ways in which we behave and make decisions on a day-to-day basis.

“There's no secret here, but it's really just focusing on the totality of the employee experience from reward and recognition and caring and teaching and learning and accountability and measurement, being involved in the local community, listening and involving people in decisions that are being made and showing people that you truly care and engaging them along the way and changing along the way.”

Some perks truly matter

At Gourmet Coffee Service, we were diligent about training, 90-day reviews, recognition for performance, company picnics, catered holiday parties and generous benefits. We took as many as 20 employees to the NAMA Show and NAMA’s Coffee, Tea & Water event. We empowered people and gave them the opportunity to grow, and while there are always employees who will never give anyone their loyalty and trust, for the most part, we were rewarded handsomely.

Spiegelman notes that when you do the small things that matter to your employees, and you don’t take them away when business suffers, that’s when you create the kind of loyalty that keeps people on board for a long time.

I know this topic might hit a nerve for some operators who are on the “front line.” I welcome your feedback.

Next month, we will explore some strategies for building customer loyalty.


Bob Tullio is a content specialist, speaker, sales trainer and business columnist who advises entrepreneurs on how to build a successful business from the ground up. He also specializes in helping suppliers connect with operators in the convenience services industry – coffee service, vending, micro markets and pantry service specifically.

Tullio delivers this promise to any company that hires him for a 30-minute or 1-hour Zoom call: "That short session will elevate the performance of your sales team.”

Tullio can be reached at [email protected] or 818-261-1758.


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