Freedom or Lack of Commitment?

Lifelong commitment to one employer is a thing of the past. An analysis by Princeton economist Henry Farber revealed that the percentage of private sector employees who remained with the same employer for 10 or more years has dropped from 50% in 1973 to less than 35% today. Those with 20 or more years with the same employer dropped from 35% to 20%.


To be sure, some of this movement is employer-driven. Lifetime job security is long gone for most positions. So are benefit packages that would keep employees secure, such as rock-solid pensions and generous health benefits. But does a generational shift in values also explain the drop?


According to Pew Research, 66% of Millennials say they want to switch careers some time in their life, while 62% of Generation X members and 84% of Baby Boomers say they would prefer to stay at their current job for the rest of their lives. Another study suggested that while 64% of Baby Boomers “really care about the fate” of their organization, this figure is only 47% for Millennials. Yet another study indicated that two-thirds of Millennials had plans to move or “surf” from one job to another as a means of gaining desired skills and increasing their pay.

One Millennial, Rebecca Thorman, notes that mobility makes sense only because if you aren’t mobile, you limit your options. She says you can’t expect your pay to grow “by staying at the same job…You just can’t.”


These values don’t sit well with some employers. “We prefer long tenured employees who have stuck with us and been loyal,” says Dave Foster, CEO of AvreaFoster, an advertising agency in Dallas. “It appears that a lot of Millennials don’t think that one path is the answer. This is a problem because the commitment isn’t there.”


To attitudes like that, Thorman retorts, “We’re not going to settle.”

Source: S. Collins, “Millennials Take on the Workforce,” SHIFT Magazine (May 3, 2011), downloaded May 12, 2011 from; R. Wartzman, “Generation Mobility,” Los Angeles Times (July 16, 2010), downloaded May 12, 2011 from