Back in the days of the Industrial Revolution and the dawn of mass production, focus was on efficiency, scale, quality control, and essentially getting “stuff” made. Employees worked on production lines, performing the same tasks over and over, and work was a means to an end. A way to support yourself and your family. Management was command and control, and I would guess there was probably not much in the way of feelings of contentment and job satisfaction, but hey, you had a paycheck to bring home.
As we shifted from an economy based on production work into an era of more knowledge workers, management theory changed with it. We moved into the era of more participative management focused on harnessing the expertise of these knowledge workers. We now had “goals” and “objectives” and were more concerned with how to motivate employees. But we were still for the most part operating in an environment of the manager/subordinate, vertical org chart sort of organization.
Your goal was to land a good job at a good company, put in a good 30 to 40 years, and then retire from said company.
But times are changing, again.
We’ve moved into a new era. One where loyalty to one company is not guaranteed, or even expected. Moving from job to job and employer to employer is far more accepted and expected than in the days of our parents and grandparents. Today’s younger workers (and for that matter even many who have been in the workforce for quite a while) have different expectations about what work means and the role it plays in their lives. Gone are the days of blind loyalty and commitment to a company without feeling like there’s something in return to be gained, beyond just a paycheck. Today’s employees are looking for more purpose and meaning, a feeling of being connected to their work, their coworkers, and their companies, and jobs and careers that fit holistically into their lives.
So with these changing expectations comes a new era for how we as business and HR leaders approach our workplaces. Loyalty is not a given, but it can be achieved by companies who care about creating environments that nurture and encourage getting the best work out of their people, and who want to grow and retain those people as they work together towards success.