Why can’t millennials just stay and be loyal?



“What company loyalty are they talking about?” I heard this question from a classmate in one of our meetings at the graduate school. She was complaining about her boss who lectured her for almost a day on the subject of company loyalty. Many have noticed that millennials (like her) shift from job-to-job without any clue to what might be referred to as company loyalty, or the lack of it. Many businesses are troubled by this because millennials comprise the new workforce. Do millennials really lack a sense of company loyalty? How can companies keep their millennial talent?

Loyalty is a virtue that a company values. Values are beliefs that guide our actions and judgments. They are desirable goals. Loyalty to a company means that for the worker, it is desirable to stay with that company through thick or thin. This loyalty pays off in many ways, primarily through promotion and a stable career. So what’s wrong with company loyalty?

Many say values get eroded. But within a culture, new values replace the old.

Remember that values make up a set of beliefs. Beliefs are explanations … like “if X … then Y….” Say, “If you’re loyal to your company, you’ll have a secure future.” However, beliefs (and values) are only good as long as people believe them. This is why some values are more prominent in a culture (e.g., some cultures value trees to the point of worshipping them) but not in another. This is also the reason why some values are more prominent in a generation (e.g., some generations value loyalty to the company, to the point of staying on for long years with them) but not in another.

Values are needs-sensitive beliefs. If a new generation does not experience the same needs that led to the emergence of values held dear by the old generation, the newbies will not understand or appreciate why such values are important. Internet-based recruitment reaches millennials even before they can decide to switch jobs. They can work from home if they like. Investments, particularly online investments, can make up for their pension plans. With all the opportunities and capacities they have, millennials do not need to stay in a company to survive.

So how can companies retain their employees? Millennials are definitely not less loyal or extra selfish compared with the previous generations. People have always been more loyal to their purpose than to their companies. However, the purpose of most millennials goes beyond a regular salary. They, being humans, long for what is not there. The 21st century offers lots of resources that make millennials more flexible and adaptive. But with flexibility and adaptability, comes uncertainty. Thus, millennials yearn for meaning. Millennials search for a sense of personal contribution to a job that suits them.

As new needs and values eclipse the old, it is high time for companies to transform and become more relevant to the personal lives of their employees. Instead of looking for company loyalty, companies need to find ways to earn their loyalty. This comes by knowing what they want to achieve in life and by adjusting company systems and policies so that companies and employees can grow together.

Darren Dumaop is an assistant professor of Psychology at De La Salle University. Email: darren.dumaop@dlsu.edu.ph


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