There was a time when loyalty, both on the part of employer and employee, was held as a valuable attribute in the employment game. Companies would tout that you could work your way up in an organization, invest time in learning how to be a good employee, own stock in the company (by way of a 401k or other stock option purchase) and even consider retiring from a company. The same held true for employees. I recall being encouraged by my parents to stay in a job I didn't love for the stability of employment and all that entailed.
By the time I entered the "gown-up workforce" in 1985, those promises had changed a bit, but there was still an expectation that employment would last for a period of time, until the company and the employee felt the return-on-investment (ROI) was fair. Generation X employees, as we refer to them now, didn't seem to have the compulsion to stay in jobs for more than a couple of years. In fact they often were labeled as "job hoppers", a term that still exists in recruiting and hiring today.
So from both an employer and employee perspective, taking into consideration the current economic climate and overall unemployment rate at 9.5% according to the BLShttp://www.bls.gov/, what can employers and employee expect from each other?
Right now from an employer standpoint, it's not possible to say that loyalty is as highly ranked an attribute as say, flexibility, adaptability and dealing with ambiguity. As employees rally back from unemployment and underemployment, many people I know, including yours truly, have re-engineered their lives to accommodate for expected future times of un or underemployment. Many, like me, took a different path altogether and when faced with a longer than anticipated period of joblessness, went back to school, took part-time jobs, stated our own business, etc. The loyalty for "employees" shifted to a self-loyalty model.
Event those that lasted in their job over this painful time of joblessness, have heard and seen the message loud and clear. Their friends and colleagues were victims of circumstance, so they in turn have taken notice. There is this idea that once the market really started to recover in some significant ways, there will be a mass-exodus by those left behind in the joblessness story, those that stayed, took on more work, took pay cuts, stayed in jobs they didn't love, but stayed to keep from being one of the many who didn't have a choice.
Companies want to keep good talent. Talented people want to do good work, be compensated fairly and know that the relationship of employer and employee is mutually beneficial. If that means that loyalty turns into something we have yet to define, that may be one of the byproducts of our employment circumstances today.
I think that employers overall can expect that employees will want to have a way to protect themselves and to keep marketable skills sharp. Employee, in general, can expect that employers will, not more than before, expect employees to "want" to stay, but accept it when that's not in the cards.
If you are still un or underemployed, this is a good thinking exercise to go through. What are the attributes you look for in an employer and how do you know they really exist beyond a mission statement. Know what you want and know what is being offered and from "the trenches" keep you network healthy and have a Plan B.
People want to help you, but you have to tell them how! Like the Yellow Brick Road, job search is scary, uncertain and long, but there are people along the way who can help!
You can do this!