Yes, American Workers Can Learn a Lot From Their Uber-Loyal Canadian Cousins

John Hollon Current Affairs, Employee Relations, John Hollon, Retention

Everybody knows that Canadians, our English-speaking cousins to the North, are wonderfully courteous and kind, but guess what? They’re also incredibly loyal to their employers as well.

Yes, this is yet another example of how the good people in Canada are so very, very different from their American counterparts.

Most working Americans know all-too-well that the employer-employee loyalty bond has long been broken in the United States. As the Harvard Business Review noted a few years back,

Very few, if any, organizations offer the option or expectation of lifetime employment, so even perfect loyalty doesn’t necessarily result in protection and care anymore. It’s time to acknowledge that the old equation — the one in which we trusted — is gone. It won’t come back. It can’t be restored, and, frankly, that’s probably appropriate given the nature of work today.”

The uber-loyalty of the Canadian worker

Even though I know that Canadians are very different from Americans, I was surprised when a recent survey from Monster Canada found that “three-quarters of Canadians (74 percent) believe it is helpful for their career to stay loyal to one employer.

Here are a few more tidbits from the survey:

  • Canadians are mostly split on the ideal length of time to stay at one employer. Nearly half of respondents (49 percent) believe that 10 years or less is the right amount. On the other hand, four-in-10 (39 percent) say staying for more than 10 years is ideal.
  • More than half of Millennials (57 percent) believe that the appropriate length of time at one employer is six years or less, while more than half (51 percent) of those aged 55-64 believe that the perfect length of time is more than 10 years.
  • The majority of Millennials (75 percent) polled say that staying loyal to one employer is helpful in their career. That age group is also the most likely to have had only one-to-two employers (41 percent).
  • As for those who are nearing the end of their career, 20 percent of Canadians 55 years and older report only having had one to two employers, but this number increases among older Gen Xers, with 30 percent of those aged 45-54 having had six or more employers.

Why Americans aren’t quite as happy

Contrast those numbers with the United States, where only 34 percent of workers are engaged (with nearly 50 percent reporting they are not engaged), and where one in three employees are expected to change jobs in the next six months.

It’s a pretty big difference, no?

This is the employee retention issue that so many American companies struggle with today. Not only can losing employees be terribly costly — a study released this year by the Center for America Progress pegged the cost of losing an employee anywhere from 16 percent of the salary for hourly, unsalaried employees, to 213 percent of salary for a highly trained position — but such thinking puts the thought into just about everyone that perhaps the grass IS really greener elsewhere.

I chalk this up to years of American employers treating workers like disposable parts that can easily be discarded. This was especially true during the Great Recession, and although the U.S. job market has improved from then, most people still don’t feel it’s all that good. Pay raises, in particular, have been stuck in the 3 percent range — a “pathetic” amount, as Bloomberg News points out — and aren’t budging.

This is what Americans know is the “new” normal, and it plays a large part in why those of us south of Toronto aren’t quite as loyal to our employers as our Canadian counterparts.

But there is something we can learn from those workers north of the border, and it’s this: Being a little more positive is almost always a good thing.

Time to “Tell America It’s Great

It’s gotten so bad here in America that our Canadian brethren are worried about us Yanks — so worried that they have launched a new social media campaign that, according to The New York Times, is designed to “Tell America It’s Great.” As The Times reports:

Some Canadians watching as American politics have hit rock bottom in recent weeks decided that the United States needed a cross-border pep talk. Thus was born a social media campaign called “Tell America It’s Great,” complete with a hashtag, a Twitter account and a series of YouTube videos.

It was the brainchild of the Garden Collective, a creative agency based in Toronto, and in the videos, a diverse and polite group of Canadians earnestly recite all the things they like about the United States.

“Sometimes friends just need to look out for each other,” Shari Walczak, a founder of the agency, said on Sunday.

“Hey, guys!” says one cheerful man in the campaign’s main video, which was filmed on webcams and smartphones. “We’re just up here in Canada talking about how great you guys are down there, and we thought we’d just send you a little bit of a love note.

His testimonial is followed by two dozen more Canadians warmly praising the United States for things like its diversity, its space program and for being the birthplace of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur.”

Americans can learn a thing or two

Still, as the newspaper notes, “To a jaded American eye, (this social media campaign) may all look like the most Canadian thing ever.”

That’s certainly true. As one of those very jaded Americans, I know I could use a little pep talk — and so could all the people who work for us as well. Between the mediocre economy and the terrible presidential race, we could use a few words of encouragement.

This is what we can learn from our neighbors to the North: old school virtues like courtesy, manners, and loyalty still have value and meaning, and doing something nice to cheer up your neighbor — or co-worker — is something we could use a little more of in the U.S. of A.

I don’t get to Canada very often, but when I do, I’m struck at how civil and pleasant everyone is there. Last September I spent a week in Toronto and was reminded — again! — how terribly nice Canadians are. I know that trait spreads to the Canadian workplace too, and it tells me that people north of the border know something about interpersonal relations that Americans may have forgotten.

With the terrible political season coming to a close, it would be a good thing for Americans to look to the North and perhaps take a lesson or two from America’s largest trading partner. Yes, a little more loyalty and courtesy is something we can all use, both in our lives at home and on the job.

Maybe we’ll start to focus on it more after we get past November 8.