The Blog

Loyalty Redefined - With Apologies To Her Majesty


Many of us have experienced a great surge of pride and affection for the Royal Family, and in particular for the Queen in recent weeks. A recent poll has shown that belief in the monarchy as an institution has strengthened with 76% of the British public wanting the UK to continue to have a King or Queen as head of state. It was 65% in 2005.

The same week we were lighting beacons for the Queen, I went to hear a talk by Jane Beine, Head of Partner Development at John Lewis. As she is about to celebrate 30 years working at the admired retail partnership, she told us that after 25 years, John Lewis partners receive a six-month fully paid sabbatical - but pointed out that she had not managed to take advantage of hers yet.

I found myself contrasting the almost 65 years of service by the Queen, and Jane's 30 years at John Lewis, with all that we are hearing about patterns of engagement and job tenure for those entering the workforce today.

The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016 is absolutely clear that very few Millennial workers plan to stay with their current employer for the long haul.

"During the next year, if given the choice, one in four Millennials would quit his or her current employer to join a new organisation or to do something different" it sets out. "That figure increases to 44% when the time frame is expanded to two years. By the end of 2020, two of every three respondents hope to have moved on, while only 16% of Millennials see themselves with their current employer a decade from now." It looks like even a ten-year long service award might soon be a thing of the past!

The traditionalists would label this "job hopping". New entrants today want rapid development coupled with meaningful work, and are not prepared to sacrifice one for the other. They feel it is down to them to achieve this more than being reliant on their employer to come up with the goods. Reports suggest that Millennials will have on average 12 -15 jobs in their working lives and across multiple careers, some say as many as six.

Whilst Millennials are critical to fuelling the working ranks, we are also now in a time where careers are going to last far longer. So you find yourself asking in this setting of propensity to change will there ever be a time when the Millennial generation will consider that there is something to be said for staying with an employer?

Research done by Mercer last year showed an emerging engagement paradox, building off the Millennial view of job mobility, that satisfaction at work was no guarantee against turnover, including those at senior levels. However, there was a difference for those in the higher age segments. Survey respondents over the age of 50 were less likely to be thinking about moving on. Is that just a remnant of the past or a pattern that we will see going into the future? It's not hard to imagine that might be the case but then it also suggests organisations are going to need to be more agile in their interpretation of both loyalty and longevity as they manage multiple generations.

Writing in the Financial Times recently, Lucy Kellaway talked about graduates being up against the widest gap between expectation and reality ever seen in the professions, blaming employers for telling Millenials they are extraordinary, promising them jobs that are amazing and then failing to deliver.

This is precisely why organisations like Enterprise Rent-A-Car, one of the largest graduate recruiters in the UK, hiring around 1,250 graduates and interns in 2015, is taking a very different approach to careers.

"We hire people with the idea that they will potentially leave," explains Donna Miller, European HR Director of Enterprise. "We used to talk about five- and ten-year horizons, but the conversation has completely changed. Now we focus training and development on the first year. We also talk about what you can expect if you decide to stay longer because Enterprise is such a great training ground - but that's not the initial focus."

Interestingly for Enterprise, retention of new entrants has not changed much in recent years. What has increased has been the number of people returning to the business two to three years down the line when the job they move on to is not what they thought.

"We have specifically worked on keeping in touch with people when we think it's a real shame to lose them. And we find when people do return it's great to have them sharing their stories about why they are back."

Interestingly Enterprise is an organisation full of people with long service. Donna herself has been with the organisation for more than 25 years having started, like Jane Beine at John Lewis, as a graduate trainee. Perhaps with the John Lewis partnership model and the powerful family values of Enterprise, long service will continue to be a feature of these organisations.

But all the predictions are that organisations need to be redefining loyalty and looking beyond tenure. Creating an organisational setting which acknowledges that people will move on but creating an appetite for the best to return, is likely to be more effective for talent pipeline growth.

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