Barking up the wrong tree…

24% (8.9m) in the UK have a pet dog. They’re loyal, intelligent, devoted and affectionate – and are known to improve our physical and mental health.

In 2012 I rescued my dog Patsy from a Puppy Farm. She was underweight, covered in oil and scared. She had never been on a lead and didn’t know how to play. After 6 months she wagged for the first time. 7 years on, she is like a different dog; she is happy, loving and loyal. How did we do it? – we took care of all of her basic needs, we built trust, we loved her and we let her recover at her own pace. She has her moments where we notice the signs of trauma and I just wish that she’d never had to suffer.

At the weekend I read an article (in between staring at my dog lovingly) about why dogs are so loyal:

  • Because you feed them and provide shelter.
  • Because they are a pack animal: No man is an Island and it’s the same for dogs. Intuition tells them to work together to overcome danger. Trusting, co-operating and putting the pack’s interests first are all a natural part of surviving.
  • A scientific study was carried out in 2005 which found the part of the brain associated with enjoyment and positive emotions lit up when they were given their owner’s scent. The same patterns in humans would usually be associated with love. (I am taking that as my dog loves me!).
  • It is important to remember that the relationship you build with your dog depends on you and your dog. There is no single template for this or any blueprint for what a loyal dog should look like. Some dogs are more loyal by breed than other dogs. Some dogs by personality are more loving than other dogs in their own breed.
  • Evolutionary Past: Animal experts frequently attribute the loyalty of dogs to a shared history. Canis lupus familiaris and homo sapiens have evolved together. The link between the two species dates many, many years back (10-30,000 years!).
  • Many people have dog loyalty stories based on their relationship with their dog. Part of this is due to the great communication that exists between dogs and humans.
  • The the loyalty of dogs towards their owners also may stem from the fact that dogs view themselves as our equals –- not as a separate species.

So… dogs are loyal because their basic needs are met, they trust, co-operate and put their pack first, they love, they have deep connection, they have a way of communicating their needs and they treat as equals.

Millennials are apparently three times more likely than non-millennials to change jobs and 91% don’t expect to stay with their current organisations longer than three years.

For me, loyalty has nothing to do with length of employment or how old people are, but everything to do with actions. Loyal team members work hard for their pay and are committed to company success; they may someday leave, but while they work for you they do their best and often even put the company’s interests ahead of their own.

In a world where remote working is more and more on the rise, I say loyalty and trust are more important than ever. Inspiring loyalty is a tricky thing—it’s intangible. So, how do we make sure our team members are loyal to us? There are some actions that will certainly help…

  • Increase the positive emotions that your employees feel. Understanding that you’re dealing with root emotions, rather than the specific behaviors those emotions drive, will keep you focused.
  • Offer competitive and fair pay: Employees expect to be paid as much as they could earn doing the same job someplace else and they feel “de-valued” when they’re paid less.
  • Loyalty breeds when people are surrounded by those they know, like and trust. An easy way ensure that connection between employees is to create referral bonuses and have an employee referral program that makes it easier for employees to recommend their friends.
  • Increase engagement and control: Have them set their own work hours and decide whether and when to work remotely.
  • Good communications and change management: Unnecessary uncertainty creates a climate of stress that can make employees miserable.
  • Build an Human-Centric culture: It’s difficult for employees to feel loyal to a company that tolerates individuals who make the workplace miserable for everyone else.
  • Build a brand: Employees want to be proud of their jobs and of where they work. Companies that have impressive talent brands attract and retain talent more easily.
  • Educate and equip: If you’re throwing employees into situations in which they don’t feel comfortable or expecting them to meet goals with broken, outdated, or less-than-useful equipment, there will be problems. And those problems—no matter what you might like to think—are your responsibility.
  • You don’t want issues to fester. Keep your eyes and ears open (and tell your management to do the same). Look for warning signs before things come to a head. And when you spot an issue, deal with it sooner than later but deal with it fairly.
  • Be authentic, give and expect to receive respect. The last thing you want is for everyone under you to tag you as a fake.
  • Part of earning an employee’s loyalty is showing them that you trust them to do their job. Set SMART goals and give feedback in order to mold performance positively.

You don’t have to implement all of these practices at once. Start small and work up from there. Loyalty builds cumulatively—employees gradually respond to changes in behavior, management style, and company performance. So every little bit, every positive action, every improvement, every appropriate response to a challenge adds up. It’s important to take stock of where you’re at, where you want to be, and how you plan to get there but it’s more important to act. Build on good behaviors and go forward from there.

Wow, we might not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but maybe we could start teaching people new tricks?

(For those who stuck reading this expecting more photos of dogs, I didn’t disappoint!)

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