Ask any millennial or member of Generation Z today whether he or she thinks they are loyal, and they will respond with a resounding yes. The definition of loyalty is rapidly shifting, specifically as it relates to worker loyalty.
It's not that workers are less loyal today – there are more choices for workers, more technological solutions, and more workers want to work on their terms.
Loyalty in the past
In the post-war industrial revolution, jobs were mainly in the farming and manufacturing industries. Workers were traditionalists – they were the parents of the baby boomer generation. The work was repetitive, manual and required tremendous effort.
For workers in the farming industry, they typically joined the family business and loyalty was inherent. In the worker was in manufacturing, it was because towns or communities were centered on a mill or a manufacturer based in that community.
Workers regarded work as stability and survival. Workers in the 1950s to the late 1990s sought to establish a career, staying in that job until they retired.
Loyalty in the present
The technological revolution that began in the mid-1990s created a new workplace reality. Gen X, the children of baby boomers, still sought jobs that could provide stability; however, recessions in the early 80s, late 90s and 2000s created a reality check that there was no such thing as job stability.
It was in the '90s that it became evident that the children of Gen X and boomers were of a new mindset: Millennials saw their parents work hard only to be let go by their employer. Millennials also watched their parents come home from work unhappy, burned out and bored. Today, millennials spend, on average, two to three years at a job if they like their boss. It's not uncommon for millennials to move on from a job after six months as they seek an employer who can provide them with flexibility and meaningful work.
The biggest change affecting employee loyalty is that work has become global. Anyone of any generation can work anywhere, anytime and have more choices than ever before as to the type of work that they do.
Loyalty in the future
Members of Generation Z (those born in the '90s) are more entrepreneurial than any preceding generation. Millennials have sought to be promoted quickly and to work in a variety of industries to gain maximum experience. Many of Generation Z see work as a way toward starting one's own business and being their own boss.
For employers, the best strategy for finding and keeping talent is to revamp how you see workers helping the business. Research shows that by 2025, 50 percent of workers will be freelancers and remote employees.
Companies will also need a clear, comprehensive strategy on the work that needs to be done and who is best suited to do what work. This includes companies, especially tech and manufacturing companies, clearly delineating where AI, automation and robotics fits in with their processes.
What can leaders do now to solve loyalty challenges?
Right now, leaders can ensure that when workers are hired that management communicates a clear pathway that shows the future for the worker. Leaders should partner with HR and senior leadership to clarify who does what and what types of workers are needed. Work can be reorganized into projects and then outsourced to freelancers or contract workers.
Leaders can re-evaluate their leadership approaches to determine what makes employees happy and more engaged at work. Companies need to build in remote work, flex work and shared jobs to align changing worker needs and to increase loyalty.
Finally, leadership attitudes must adapt to the reality that worker loyalty is not what it used to be. Employees have more options than ever before. They want open and trustworthy leaders who share power, share resources and help workers succeed.
Even if employee loyalty isn't what it used to be, there are attitudes and processes that can be changed now to increase loyalty.