Op-Ed · Professional Development

An Op-Ed: When Company Loyalty isn’t Enough

In the past, part of my career path involved advising on professional development and career planning for college students, community members and adult learners.  Today, I still teach professional development courses and offer advice on career planning when asked.  With 12 years of experience and two major dips in the economy, I have heard and seen many challenges facing job seekers in their quests for better employment opportunities.

One recent frustration I’ve witnessed on now two different occasions is when long-time workers are being “pushed out” of their current positions by their employers.  These hard-working individuals who have been with their employers 15-plus years and who are nearing retirement age are being asked to step aside for a young generation of workers (who have little to no experience).   One example I saw was when a full-time job description was modified to encompass fewer work responsibilities and made a part-time status.  While some people may consider this reduction of work as a blessing, to a hard-working, highly-motivated staff member who is dedicated to his or her profession, these changes may make one feel unappreciated and inadequate while doing a job for a company to which they have been loyal for many years.  Plus, when an employer modifies an employee’s job description from full-time to part-time status to save money on benefits, the employee may be forced to seek alternative employment in order to continue their medical benefits and retirement savings.  I have also seen an educational requirement for a position be upgraded from an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree with CPA preferred, all while the job duties and responsibilities remain unchanged. Why would an employer attempt to make these modifications to a job description unless they were looking for new talent to fill a roll that already exist within the company?

While it’s cheaper for employers to hire a fresh college graduate who may accept a position with a reduced salary compared to the current salary being earned by a loyal worker, my question to these employers is, what happened to having loyalty for your employees?  An interesting fact is that the millennial generation (which is replacing the seasoned workforce) is more likely to have a greater number of jobs and career paths in their lifetimes than any other generation.  This now-acceptable bouncing around from career to career is likely due to wanting more challenging opportunities at work, higher salaries, more room for professional advancement, and to fulfill a desire to work for a company with a socially responsible mission statement. So riddle me this: why are employers hiring this generation who are not loyal to their company, but are more loyal to themselves as individuals?

In a recent PRNewswire articleMillennials and their employers: Can this relationship be saved? Businesses at risk of losing top talent, according to Deloitte’s global annual survey, “Two-thirds of Millennials express a desire to leave their organizations by 2020.”  If you’re an employer thinking about replacing a seasoned worker who could be retiring within the next ten years with a millennial who may be leaving your organization within the next 4 years for a new opportunity, you may want to think twice.

To bridge this gap, my suggestion would be for more companies to initiate mentoring programs, partnering seasoned workers with newly hired staff, especially if the new hires are millennials.  One concept human resource offices have been exploring is the notion of “reverse mentoring,” as highlighted here in a 2010 article from the Harvard Business Review.  While I agree that allowing millennials to help mentor the seasoned employee on social media may be beneficial to the organization, I think adding in a subliminal component of allowing the seasoned employee to help train and mold the millennial as a replacement worker for when they retire is the key factor missing from this equation.

While there are many pressures which companies face, especially in today’s economic uncertainty, cutting costs cannot always be the driving force for hiring and staffing decisions.  I encourage all managers to take a good look at their workforce to see where there are gaps, try to implement cross-training opportunities when available and be a kind human with appreciation for your workforce as many of them spend more time with you and on your business than with their own families. The hard working Baby Boomer generation needs to be shown appreciation by their employers over a bottom line.

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