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Where’s The Loyalty?

Originally published September 29, 2005

In previous generations, people had a great deal of loyalty to the company or organization for which they worked. In fact, it was considered a virtue to work an entire career for one organization.

Today that loyalty has essentially been destroyed. Companies are constantly laying off employees, whether this is in a service or manufacturing industry. One visible example of this is within the airline industry. Some airlines are preparing to eliminate their employee pension funds. Such an act will clearly hurt many people who have spent years at these companies. Another example of this lack of loyalty has occurred with a reputable manufacturing company. This company is considering cutting health care for former employees in an attempt to save money.

These are just a few examples of today’s economic reality. Various companies are treating retirement and health care benefits as luxuries, not necessities. As time passes, this corporate positioning toward various entitlements will only get worse. Not surprisingly, workers have far less loyalty for their companies. Many employees, understandably, do not trust their companies anymore.   

There are other reasons for a decrease in employer loyalty. Long ago, many corporations stopped rewarding initiative and risk-taking. Instead, they began preferring workers and managers who preserved the status quo. Not making mistakes became the mantra for promotion. And the only people who do not make mistakes are those that do little or nothing. As a result, very little innovation or advanced thinking came out of many of these corporations.

If loyalty to the corporation has vanished, where has it gone? Ostensibly, it went straight to technology. When you ask a person what they do today, he or she will tell you that their work is in Internet design, engineering, information processing etc., not for the ABC corporation. Clearly, people have attached their loyalty and trust to their craft.

Now, when there is a layoff, the individual merely finds another company who needs his or her skills. The skill set is transferable from one company to the next. Finding a job ultimately amounts to finding who needs your particular skills.

For previous generations, loyalty might have gone to particular technologies or skill sets, such as COBOL, IMS, CICS or VSAM. But not too many people attach great importance to those technologies anymore. (Although as recently as the Y2K mania, people with a COBOL background found the job market very receptive.)

Today, the loyalty is more likely to be towards technologies and brands like XML, C++, Java, Business Objects, Cognos, Microsoft, Oracle, SAS and others.

So what has been lost? Certainly pension plans. Workers loyal to a specific technology will not work long enough at a company to qualify for a pension plan. But it would probably be eliminated anyway. Consider the unfortunate former employees of the previously mentioned airline industy who actually believed that they would receive a pension and are now left with little or nothing.

There are benefits to attaching loyalty to a specific technology or skill set. One such benefit is worker mobility. If one company goes through layoffs, a technician merely takes his or her skills to the next company in need of those talents.

Another advantage of loyalty to a specific technology or skill set is premium pay. Usually skill-sets in high demand bring the highest pay.

Yet another advantage is the possibility of working as a contractor. Contract work has its unique advantages. If you decide to take time off, this can easily work. Working as a contractor provides the most job flexibility. But it does have its drawbacks with long hours and travel in some cases.

Obviously, each person is responsible for his or her retirement situation. You must have personal accountability when it comes to spending and investing your money. With today’s job market volatility and lack of loyalty, this personal responsibility is vital.

  • Bill InmonBill Inmon

    Bill is universally recognized as the father of the data warehouse. He has more than 36 years of database technology management experience and data warehouse design expertise. He has published more than 40 books and 1,000 articles on data warehousing and data management, and his books have been translated into nine languages. He is known globally for his data warehouse development seminars and has been a keynote speaker for many major computing associations.

    Editor's Note: More articles, resources and events are available in Bill's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

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