Employment contracts, pensions and “lifers” are all parts of the workingman’s rhetoric of a bygone era. Today, the language concerns shortened contracts, reduced hours, outsourcing, automation and multiple careers.

149104991Workers come and go while employers cut corners, downsize and reduce wages. For some time now, there hasn’t been a sense of mutual respect between the two parties.

So, is the concept of company loyalty dead? If so, then who killed it? The employer or the employee? Or, has the contemporary workplace simply evolved in such a way that’s made the “lifer” mentality obsolete?

The next generation of employees – the Alpha generation, or generation A – is a set of people that includes anyone born in the 15 years after 2010. These youngsters, and their Millennial predecessors, are helping to help clarify the issue of employee loyalty, or lack there of.

Social researchers predict Millennials and Gen A-ers will work longer in their lives and have an average of five careers before they make the decision to retire. Five career moves may sound high today, but the current work environment is slowly ebbing in that direction. In fact, the American Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2010, people in their 20’s change jobs an average of every two years.

So, why the two-year turnover? It’s costly to a business, and it further frustrates the relationship between management and workers. Psychology Today notes that employee loyalty often is linked to job security. Given the economic unrest of the last five years, it’s not surprising that loyalty among workers has waned.

It’s true: A bad economy can make an employer feel “trapped” in an ill-suited position, which could lead to disloyalty and lackluster performance. On that same side, a company may feel the financial pinch of a weak economy and ultimately sacrifice employee needs for the sake of preserving valuable resources.

However, a healthy economy – or in today’s instance of a rebounding economy – can also pose an issue with regard to employee loyalty

Psychology Today noted a Deloitte study, “Talent Edge 2020: building the Recovery Together-What Talent Expects and How Leaders Are Responding,” that points to the concept that a stronger economy may actually cause workers, especially the most talented and ambitions of them, to begin looking for a better position elsewhere. According to the Deloitte study, nearly 65% of employees surveyed are actively keeping an eye out for something better.

The Low-down on Loyalty

So, how do you retain workers and instill a sense of loyalty on both sides of the desk? Perhaps the best place to find the answer is in the youngest of the current workforce.

It’s well documented that Millennials have a vastly different view of what “work” should be. These folks tend to steer clear of a stringent soulless corporate cultures and instead opt for companies that are modern in their appreciation for employees.

According to Psychology Today, Millennials are more likely to remain with a company if the employer has a strong commitment to corporate responsibility or volunteerism. These workers also are drawn to positions in which the work and the work environment is viewed as fun – i.e. flexible schedules, engaging projects and the ability to advance in the position within a short period of time.

For companies who embrace this progressive mindset, a new kind of relationship between the employer and employee has developed. It’s a relationship grounded in mutual trust and respect. Loyalty is not dead. Instead, there’s a bit of a managerial metamorphosis taking place.

According to Psychology Today, employee loyalty now more closely resembles a social contract developed out of realistic expectations on both sides. It’s a significant change from the employer / employee relationship a generation or two ago. And, as the Alpha generation grows and enters the workforce, there will undoubtedly be more advanced ways in which companies and workers can remain loyal to each other.

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