Critical Doer Deep Dive: Don’t Eat Your Seed Corn (Part 2)

A Critical Doer controls what is theirs to control 

In my last post, we took a look at stock buybacks versus reinvestment using the metaphor of “don’t eat your seed corn” as the backdrop to frame the discussion in terms of long term and short term calculations.  I also promised to devote this post to the idea of loyalty and how it is both shaped and affected by near and long term business decisions.

We’ll begin with a chicken and egg discussion of why it’s rare that a person goes to work with a company and stays with that company until retirement.  I read an article recently that indicated the average person entering the work force will change jobs 11 times and career fields at least twice.  Many have portrayed the move away from the “company man” model of the Traditionalist generation and to a somewhat lesser degree the Baby Boomers as a self-centered phenomenon that started with Generation X and is amplified in the Millennials.  The assumption is that loyalty begins from within and is independent of environmental factors.  Looking at the data and applying some critical thinking suggests that assumption may not be accurate.

The Traditionalists and the bulk of the Baby Boomers spent most of their working lives in a period of unparalleled economic growth.  Companies were growing, earnings were growing, and there was great stability for workers and their families.  As growth contracted and competition became stiffer, new words entered everyday life like layoffs, cutbacks, downsizing, hostile takeovers, leveraged buy outs, mergers…all tore at the holy grail of the “company man” model…stability.  Their Generation X and Millennial children saw this happening to their parents…they felt it…and they have not forgotten.

A Library of Congress research report provides data that tracks declining confidence in corporate pensions as life dreams have been shattered by the turbulence in corporate America.  You can begin to see how the data actually shows the environment has a significant impact upon loyalty, particularly when it comes to basic survival issues like earning a living.

Gallup polling data adds further evidence of waning confidence that loyalty will leave workers financially stable for retirement.  One recent poll shows a trend of rising numbers of workers who feel they will not have enough money for retirement.  Another poll shows a rising trend in workers who plan to continue working past retirement age not for fulfillment but because they have to for survival. 

There is other polling data that does point to a way in building worker loyalty.  Gallup conducted a poll on attitudes about the banking industry.  The conclusion of the analysts is that behaviors and not slogans are what differentiate banks and build customer loyalty.  My conclusion is even clearer.  Starting with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs that begins with basic survival and ends with fulfillment, our loyalty is to ourselves and our families when survival is at stake.  As survival is more assured, loyalty to organizations grows and grows even stronger when organizations go above and beyond for individuals in times of challenge.  Workers have behaved exactly as you would expect when corporate instability threatens financial stability.  People are people and that has not changed…the environment certainly has changed.

The good news is that polling data shows we may be learning.  A recent survey showed a stable and growing trend line in worker engagement.  With a greater voice and participative management practices that are becoming more prevalent, there is greater opportunity for workers to become invested in an organization.  When this happens, there is a healthier environment for loyalty to grow because the feeling is the future is something they can shape rather than something that shapes them.

As Critical Doers, we have to recognize the obligation of leadership in that attitudes toward an organization, like loyalty, begins with us.  I’m not naïve and fully understand that there are people in every organization with only selfish interests, but the environment where both organizations and workers feel loyalty to the other is crucial both near and long term just like the equation of stock buybacks versus reinvestment.

There is a significant direct cost in replacing a skilled worker as well as indirect costs in lost productivity and product quality due to low experience; reliability both internally and externally also has a cost.  There is also a significant direct cost from losing customers and trying to regain them.  Investor loyalty is also legitimate in balancing near term reward for risking capital and a long term commitment that allows organizations to remain competitive and prosperous for the long haul.

Your challenge as a Critical Doer is to look at a situation you’re involved in at home or at work where you can apply the lessons of this and the previous post.  Throughout our lives we’re constantly balancing near term gain with long term risk.  Don’t lose sight of the fact that in between near and long term there are real people with real lives and legitimate concerns.  Balancing the scales on near and long term and doing it in a way that respects the human desire to make a good life for their families is a formula that makes loyalty grow and organizations win.  When leaders recognize loyalty is a two-way street and it likely won’t exist without the conditions that will allow it to exist, you’re ready to achieve more than you ever though imaginable.  It’s what a Critical Doer would…do!



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Updated: November 18, 2015 — 4:51 pm