For those of us who remember, a gold watch was iconic in the business world as a representation of years of service. After 20 or more years of work at the same company, it was a symbolic gift from employer to employee that demonstrated the company’s appreciation for that loyalty.
Today, workforce longevity is a far cry from the habits of the ‘golden watch’ generation. In 20 years, an employee could have as many as five (or more) different employers and nearly as many careers. Where did the idea of company loyalty go?
According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, the average tenure for employees is 4.6 years. For employees over age 65, the average was 10 years, and employees under 35 averaged 3 years.
It’s obvious to even the average individual that something has changed, but what? And who’s fault is it? Employment experts take this as an indication that corporate loyalty is dead.
What is loyalty?
There is a distinct difference in the manner that employers and employees view loyalty. For the boomer generation, workplace loyalty meant when you took a job, you put your ‘nose to the grindstone’ and worked until you retired.
You did your job, expected a raise occasionally and primarily assumed that your company was looking out for you. In return, you earned the respect and appreciation of your employer and were “rewarded” with a pension when you retired.
Today’s employees view their jobs differently. Millennials and Gen X were raised during a time when corporations performed mass layoffs, pensions vanished, and unions dissolved. As a result, they have little confidence in long-term work relationships and have been told time and time again that they are responsible for their own future. Contrary to what experts will say, however, this does not mean they aren’t loyal.
For this generation of employees, loyalty means something different than simply staying in a job. The employees of today expect to hold a variety of jobs. In fact, many job experts advise employees not to stay at a job for longer than four years, stating that it will make them appear ‘unmotivated’.
For them, corporate loyalty means going full force during their length of employment, and then leaving on good terms when it is time to move on. They demonstrate loyalty by continuing to promote their employer, even referring others to them and may even consider returning later if their career brings them back.
They consider job changing as a rite of passage, and each job is a stepping stone on their journey.
How Can You Inspire Loyalty?
Provide inspiration, care, bring them along on the journey. Today’s employees want to feel as though their work matters, their personality, and skills are important, valued and they can contribute to corporate goals. They need to feel part of something larger than just their day-to-day job. Help them to see the larger picture for their efforts and encourage them to engage in the company beyond their department.
Employees today expect their jobs to work around their lives. They may want to schedule their shift around their child’s school schedule or be available to work a non-traditional schedule. With the rise of mobile workplace options, your employee may be located halfway around the world, or on the other side of the state.
This provides them with many more options than previous generations have had. By affording them flexible schedule options, they’ll be more willing to press in at times of greater need.
One of the greatest draws to changing jobs is the opportunity to tackle a new challenge. It’s why today’s employees think nothing of moving across the country (or around the world) to start a new job. Introduce variety to keep your employees engaged and inspired, and they’ll be more likely to stay longer in their position.
Company loyalty may not look the same as it did in previous generations, but it is still very much alive. Want to see loyalty from your employees? Show loyalty and be a company worth being loyal toward.
Michele Bailey is president and CEO of Blazing Agency and My Big Idea™. These two lines of business work congruently to support her clients’ success.