You've Been Warned: Companies Don't Value Your Loyalty Anymore. Here's Why

Seemingly long gone are the days of the company worker. Young people today are constantly being reminded of the cultural significance of their parents and grandparents' daily commute to the same workplace over a long and fulfilling career. Many were able to rise through the ranks and give their families a consistent level of lifestyle improvement, all while knowing that their role in the company was both valued and secure.

This is far from the landscape of the working individual today, however. Employees are routinely worried about downsizing, and economic conditions make brands across industries susceptible to all kinds of pressures that can lead to reductions in hours, layoffs, or a complete transformation of job responsibilities. All this feels personal to the worker being asked to come in on a Saturday or suddenly saddled with a former coworker's workload without any commensurate pay increase. It can feel like a death by a thousand cuts, and with each new affront, workers feel more and more alienated from their peers, bosses, and workplace. This isn't in your head, though: Companies have truly lost value in loyalty. Where a company and top brass once saw a buzzing workplace full of individual people, now something else has taken center stage. Even so, there are things that employees can do to level the playing field. This is why your employer no longer values your loyalty and what you can (and maybe should) do about it.

Companies have a gigantic pool of skilled labor to draw from

One of the most pressing issues that plagues work environments for employees hoping to enjoy a long tenure in their position is the state of the current labor pool. Young, educated workers (or hopefuls) are everywhere today. More importantly, these workers can be brought in as a cost-saving mechanism. It might be tempting to push back on this notion by highlighting the importance of veterans who know the system they work in and perform their roles exceedingly well. However, businesses across the board have found that it's simply cheaper in the short term to hire new employees at a fraction of the cost and take the expense of training or lost productivity on the chin. It's an infuriating tradeoff, to be sure, but one that companies can justify through an important shift in workplace priority.

With an increasing volume of educated workers in the labor force, jobs in all fields have become vulnerable to a shift in personnel that prioritizes reduced spending on salary. At bottom, it's a simple relationship of supply and demand. With an increased supply of potential employees to choose from, businesses have transitioned to a model of higher turnover that allows them to cut costs in the immediate present, even if that comes at the expense of long-term team cohesion and perhaps even efficiency, productivity, and competitive positionality.

Employees use job titles as stepping stones rather than anchor points

On the flip side of this employer-employee relationship, workers have discovered that they can capitalize on better contract terms by leaning into the churn rather than fighting it. Instead of staying with a company for the long haul, workers have started to put in just enough time at each job to create the right resume blend to facilitate a hop to the next opportunity. Because companies have stopped valuing and rewarding loyalty, employees are largely turning away from providing it in the first place.

Instead of looking to stick with one team and brand, employees have found that changing jobs at a near-breakneck pace is the best way to gain access to better job roles, higher pay, and improved compensation benefits. From 401(k) matching to generous annual leave and sick day utilization, the best way to continuously find a better work-life balance is by regularly saying goodbye.

Employees today now spend roughly four years with their company, on average. This figure notably shifts with age, and it's a far cry from the business model that existed before the catastrophic back-to-back recessions of the early 1980s. Instead of building a life around the knowledge that their current job will support them into the future, employees have largely wised up to the way companies see them and have started treating their employers like stepping stones to the next great opportunity.

Industry standard tools make employees more replaceable

Workplace relationships between bosses and underlings aren't the only feature at play here. The standard tools that businesses use on a routine basis to get work done have also transformed the landscape of modern workplaces. Whether it's a specialized piece of software like CAD, equipment like a CNC machine, or a packaged suite of tools like Microsoft Office, workers today largely perform their role via the assistance of external forces. Rather than manipulating your workpiece by hand or writing up documents with pen and paper before hand delivering them, industry-standard tools have made disparate jobs more alike. A CAD designer, for instance, can build out models of virtually anything that a company might want to design, regardless of personal interests or expertise. This means that an even greater selection of workers is capable of a wider range of job functions without specialized training beyond a primer on what the company does.

The more technology you use in your daily workplace activities, the more replaceable you become. In the past, specialized knowledge likely meant versatility and staying power, but with the leveling off of these implements of productivity, a basic understanding of the task at hand has made more and more aids, machinery, and contraptions easier to operate and use, reducing the overall impact that a particular employee brings to bear.

Employees, too, have noticed the flip side of this evolving environment

Even though employers often enjoy the upper hand in this relationship, employees of all stripes have taken notice of these changes in the workplace more broadly. While some jobs are going extinct, new and potentially high-paying opportunities are cropping up every day, and this evolution is enticing people to regularly switch fields. Whether it's a newly created position facilitated by a technological shift or simply the expansion of an industry's purview as a result of novel tool conception, the job market is continually helping people reinvent themselves.

Because employees aren't just moving between companies these days, but rather are empowered to shift career track altogether, businesses are increasingly less inclined to prize loyalty. Instead of building skills to support a singular career focus, people are increasingly chasing after technological know-how and intangible traits built through job experiences that support increasing mobility across industrial lines and long into the future (they're also looking to avoid low-pay-inducing college degree programs and other training opportunities). The job market is no longer about niche specialization and employees have taken notice, opting for a broad range of skills that can help them jump toward their next increase in pay and continually improving workplace environments with greater haste and less heartache.

The competitive edge means hiring a rival's employee creates a dual benefit

Perhaps one of the more cynical factors at play revolves around hiring practices and headhunting strategies. Companies have largely come to understand that poaching employees from rival businesses creates an even greater return than simply hiring an excellent candidate. Taking an employee away from a competitor means removing that person's utility in an environment that works against a business. Not only is it a basic zero-sum victory, but this approach also offers insights into how other brands execute their day-to-day tasks. Successfully stealing an employee helps a business to identify essential weaknesses in its existing strategy. For instance, an employee who has recently moved over from a large competitor might be able to offer important guidance on how another brand has dealt with specific challenges in the marketplace. Of course, there are always nondisclosure agreements and the like at play keeping trade secrets largely off limits in these types of crossover hires, but generalized knowledge about practices and processes can be a true game changer for a business looking to make a big impact.

Bringing in a new type of thinking can drastically change a company's course for the better. Therefore, many businesses focus on employee talent from rival brands, often to the detriment of their own team.

Technological advancement is creating redundancy quickly

In addition to the condensation of divergent job responsibilities, technology is simply eliminating jobs on a consistent basis. It's thought that automation alone will eliminate as many as 85 million jobs around the world by 2025, with around 36 million Americans threatened by increasingly efficient automation processes, specifically. These changes are great for business but they put workers on edge across a wide scattershot of industries. In many cases, businesses suggest that workers will be able to transition into new responsibilities or even into roles working alongside the automation tools that have usurped some of their duties. But an investment in technology likely isn't worthwhile if it simply shifts a company's workforce rather than shedding some or even most of it. The stark reality is that automation will eliminate jobs and leave an unlucky segment of the workforce looking for something new to ply their craft at.

Because changing technological tools are making workers across the board vulnerable, it is no curiosity as to why companies aren't valuing the loyalty of their employees. If many of them will be gone in the next few years there's little need to craft long- or even medium-term plans with them in mind.

Promotion schedules demand outside hires for brand efficiency

People sometimes retain the notion that loyalty to their company and team will ultimately yield a consistent string of raises and perhaps even promotions up the corporate ladder. In the past this may have been the case, but today companies have largely shifted to a different model when looking for new management roles, especially among the C-suite. The result is a feeling of abandonment by middle managers and those across the company spectrum hoping to build a career in their current team. However, there's actually a good reason for this change. Even though it won't satisfy any concerns you might have in your workplace, finding outside hires for middle and upper management roles is a tactic that keeps long-term viability at a high among your team and across the business more broadly.

By solely promoting from within, businesses unwittingly create a structural vulnerability that runs up through the entire hierarchy. Rather than hiring one new employee to fill a needed role and getting them up to speed, multiple employees are all working at diminished capacity at the same time as they take on new roles and responsibilities through a chain of internal promotions. The takeaway is that anyone seeking routine promotion should look to hop jobs. Instead of considering your company's hierarchy as a ladder, think about the industry as a whole and climb each rung by seeking to be hired for the job you want in a new business.

Shareholder (or private ownership) interests come ahead of all else

In the modern world, profits and consistent improvement are the markers of success. Both publicly traded companies and private industries demand a constant upward momentum in profits and a corresponding reduction in the cost of doing business. The paired goals are unsustainable for businesses that want to keep quality control and many other features of the brand's value output the same. Even gigantic companies like Microsoft or Apple, each valued in the trillions of dollars, are seen as exhibiting weakness if they return the same profit numbers in two consecutive quarters or years. There's simply no room for doing well without comparison to a previous marker.

Sadly, the people who take the brunt of this demand for consistent improvement above all else are the workers. If sales can't be improved or a new product development project goes over budget, then profit margins must be protected by shedding costs. Often, this means laying off workers or seeking ways to squeeze extra effort out of a team without paying them more for their increased commitment. Ownership interests stand head and shoulders above the well-being of employees or any other consideration that might factor into a healthy and thriving business's overarching plans.

Inflation can create poor conditions for new hires and existing employees alike

While businesses can be guilty of all kinds of stressors and over the top asks from their employees, at the end of the day a business only functions if it makes more money than it spends. This is the basic economic reality of all enterprises and even factors directly into the budgetary math of everyday consumers. You can only spend what you earn. Periods of intense inflation can make it so that people looking for jobs want or need more than a company is capable of providing. There will always be a profit margin to protect, but under extreme conditions of inflation or economic turmoil by other means, breaking even may not be possible with the prevailing market demand.

This can also take the form of benefits rather than sheer salary payout. Employee compensation takes on several forms, and generous holiday packages, workplace amenities, and wellness schemes like gym or club memberships, subscription inclusions, or comprehensive work-from-home arrangements can also cost businesses financially. The entirety of what employees seek in new compensation packages can sometimes strain business resources to their breaking point. Businesses sometimes find that they can't afford to compensate loyalty as it deserves. When times get tough, those expecting the best rewards for their years of service often find themselves factoring as the heaviest weight on the books and are instead punished for their dedication.

Outsourcing has remained a big contributor to corporate profit-seeking

One major player in the evisceration of company loyalty that can't be overlooked is outsourcing. Outsourcing jobs is all about the dollars and cents. In a wide range of company roles, it's simply cheaper to pay a third party than to hire someone to tackle routine workflows or specific projects. This has been seen in the manufacturing industry, in the technology space, and perhaps most prominently among call center agents. Outsourcing casts a wide net and acts as a potent strategy for cutting costs in the here and now.

This is a particularly valuable — or harmful, depending on your perspective — practice within large enterprises and publicly traded companies. The need to continually chase increasing profits to satisfy third-party ownership interests leads to all sorts of cost-cutting avenues that may or may not be valuable business solutions over the medium to long term. It's widely reported that customers intensely dislike chatbots and become highly frustrated when speaking with foreign call center agents who aren't direct employees and therefore may not be inclined to actually care much about callers' issues. But outsourced agents are cheaper than in-house ones and businesses have largely figured that customer sentiment is no longer a driving factor in the decision-making process. When profits become the most important feature in business strategy, people naturally fall by the wayside.

Customers aren't immune to brand loyalty concerns, either

As previously noted, many companies have decided that creating and fostering brand loyalty among customers is no longer a viable path to doing business. People have become less loyal to brands overall, both as employees and as customers, and the business side of this relationship has responded by dropping customer loyalty programs and strategies altogether.

It's perhaps in part due to the rise of internet search capabilities and e-ommerce buying opportunities, but it's clear that customers everywhere have started performing considerably more research when conducting routine spending, especially among large purchases. The result is a shift from traditional and direct word-of-mouth referral. In the past, you might have exclusively bought Dodges because your parents and grandparents drove them; and as a golfer you might play Titleist because they were the first set of irons handed down to you. But this trend no longer holds as an overarching phenomenon. Businesses are focused today on cost-cutting while providing the baseline of value to retain relevancy and are no longer concerned primarily with brand loyalty. The result is that Titleist players are trading in for Callaway and TaylorMade without batting an eyelash. It's simply too costly in a world polluted by fast fashion, rapid online retailers, and an abundance of cheap alternative products.