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The Rupp Report: Loyalty - The Forgotten Attitude In The X Y Z Generations

Jürg Rupp, Executive Editor

Up to the 1960s, loyalty was one of the fundamental cornerstones of a parental education. The people coming of age during that decade are called the baby boomers. After World War II, the social and economic situation of families around the world improved considerably, and years ago, the term "baby boomer" was coined. However, before that, there was a generation called the veterans. Veterans are described as dedicated, disciplined, respectful to authority and loyal. They were born between 1928 and 1945, and only a few of them are still active in business.

Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964: to be precise, after World War II during the time when the world got better. After the war, the birth rate rose — the birth rate in Europe then was five times higher than in 2010. Baby boomers are said to be customer-oriented, optimistic, sometimes self-centered; they have trouble with conflicts and are sensitive to feedback. The last ones will leave the labor market by 2025.

Not only in the family, but also in the business world, the attitude of loyalty used to be a pillar of every fruitful relationship between supplier and customer — but, even more so, inside the company among its own people. This attitude started from the top of the company: The patron — in most cases, the owner of the company — was loyal to his employees, being responsible for a good working climate and also the wages, even in troubled times. On the other hand, his personnel worked hard, were loyal, too, and remained with the company virtually for the rest of their working lives.

New Generations
Up until then, the logic was simple. However, times have changed, and new generations have pushed to the foreground. More and more, young workers are questioning the currently existing one-sided loyalty of the worker to the company, because companies have sacked people whenever they wanted to. Older people often argue about the behavior of the younger generations. Experts give a few reasons for this fundamental change in behavior compared to the behavior of older generations.

Between 1965 and 1979, Generation X was born. They know about the Vietnam War, the oil crisis and the collapse of the Berlin Wall. X people are described as global thinkers, individualistic, pragmatic, cynical and impatient. What is even more important is the fact that the Generation Xers are said to have difficulties in dealing with other people.

People born between 1980 and 1995 are part of Generation Y. And the difference becomes even more dramatic: All the problems such as climate change, the financial and economic crisis, the towering national debt, high youth unemployment rates in many countries and the demographic change and its impact on social security systems became a threat for Generation Y.

Experts say that members of Generation Y are very self-centered; strive for power, meaning and fun in working life; hope for time, space and flexible working conditions; require continuous career development and clear communication by the employer; have difficulty accepting hierarchies; and are familiar with new technologies. On top of that, modern parents put increased emphasis on the education of their (often) single kid and encourage these kids to do what they want and to have fun. The question is: How will this pampered generation behave in the workplace?

Image Increasingly Important
For Generation Y, issues such as environmental activities and social responsibility are very important. On the other hand, they judge sectors such as raw material trading, defense industries and the financial sector as negative. Therefore, companies must change their attitude too: For the future, having good staff is no longer dependent solely on a company's name and history.

Due to the current communications technology, because it enables flexibility, Generation Y, and Generation Z even more, have no understanding of companies that hold on to outdated structures in which the work must be done in a certain place at a certain time. It should not be forgotten that many policies in the business world are based on ideas from people who are veterans.

A Survey
The proof of the importance of this subject is found in a survey titled "Millennials at work Reshaping the workplace," which was recently conducted by the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). According to the survey, more than 50 percent of all respondents want to work for up to five different companies during their working life. The target group — Generation Y, also referred to as millennials because they began to study at the turn of the millennium - included those people surging into the labor market now. For the survey, PwC interviewed 4,364 people in 75 countries.

How Should They Know?
But how should these millennials care if the current pattern is the same if some business people have no sense of loyalty? Examples from the financial industry show how egoistic modern business and its leaders can be. And recently, the British Barclays Bank held its annual meeting. Some shareholders objected to the payments to top management of bonuses totaling 2.5 billion pounds. On the other hand, the dividends paid to the shareholders amounted to 660 million pounds. What a difference. New CEO Bob Diamond earned 17.7 million pounds. By the way, the financial results of Barclays Bank show that the profit dropped by 13 percent, and the share price by 33 percent.

May 1, 2012

However, if there is anybody out there with positive stories about loyalty, please write to jrupp@textileworld.com.