Throughout the past few years of my adult working life, I have had the opportunity to work with a few different organizations and befriend multiple people of varying ages. Often times, we would discuss our personal lives, but more often than not, we would fall into a conversation about our jobs and our companies. In participating in these conversations, I have come to notice a few trends: 1. workers used to feel more loyalty to their companies because they felt their companies were more loyal to them, and 2. companies used to be more concerned with the quality of work as opposed to the current day focus on quantity. I used to work for a large telecommunications company in the customer service department and a few of my coworkers had been with this same company for over 15 years! As things tend to do, policies and procedures would change on an almost daily basis, and my older coworkers would start to become frustrated with these changes. Often times the changes meant more work for the employees; for instance, the company implemented updated text messaging packages and they wanted the customer service representatives to try and get as many customers changed over to the new packages so they could “grandfather,” or phase out the older packages. The representatives were tasked with first addressing the customers concerns and needs, and then asking the customers if they wanted to add one of the new services to their accounts, which often extended the length of calls and perpetuated the stereotype that calling customer service is an irritating and pointless endeavor.
The company would give us more work to do, but the thanks was not as prevalent as it used to be. We would have a Customer Service Appreciation week that was sponsored by the company as a way to show their appreciation for everything their workers did for them. My first year with the company we were allowed time off of the phones for about an hour each day to play games and do activities that had been planned for us. Throughout the week the company would also do random raffle drawings for various prizes, such as t-shirts, coolers, and even cellphones! I This was not too horrible! However, in my second year, we were only allowed to take time off the phones for one hour on Wednesday to play a team game and for one hour on Friday for a catered lunch. The company allowed us to have “theme days,” where we could dress up for work and the participants would be entered into the raffle drawings. Then, in my third year with the company, the raffle prizes were only done on one day of the week (as opposed to prizes being drawn every day of the week) and the prizes were pens, notepads, highlighters, coffee mugs, and keychains with the company logo on them. Instead of raffling off 3 or 4 cellphones every day, they raffled off 3 cellphones only. There was a distinct lack of appreciation as the years went by! I mentioned my thoughts to some of my coworkers who said that they noticed the change as well and that years before I started Customer Service Appreciation week was the best week to be in the company because everyone was able to get more time off the phones and they were given baskets of goodies with catered lunches every day. One coworker said that the company used to show their appreciation to workers more than just during the Appreciation week because they would raffle off turkeys during November and December. The company also used to close during the holidays so people could go and spend time with their families — I can assure you that did not happen when I was an employee.
Another example is with the current organization that I work for. I work for a non-profit organization that charges itself with providing quality programming to girls all over the state. However, being an employee I tend to sometimes see a different side of things. My job description of my first role in the organization was to go out into the community and form partnerships with other youth organizations and schools so that I could provide quality programming to girls who otherwise would not get an opportunity to participate in our programs. It was a very rewarding job because I thoroughly enjoyed working directly with the kids and seeing the small impacts and differences that were being made in their lives by providing them with life skills and positive role-modeling (it is a wonderful thing to be out grocery shopping and have a girl run up and hug you because she remembers you from last summer and cannot wait to do summer programs again). Lately, in order to continue running a program at certain sites, the organization now requires a minimum of 10 girls to participate. Sometimes this is not a possibility! There have been a few instances where I may only get 8 girls and my supervisor has wanted me to cancel the program because it is “not a cost-effective program,” and “it will not help in hitting our membership goal,” meaning the money being spent to pay my salary and mileage compared to the membership fees of the 8 girls does not balance out. My position was, and still remains, that if we are supposed to be providing these girls with life skills and positive role-modeling, how can we put a number requirement on them? I do not feel it is fair to the girls to cancel a program because two of their friends did not want to join as well. That is not their fault and they should not be penalized for it. Also, what message does that send to the girls about our organization? The directors would rather we focus on running programs that we know will bring in large numbers of girls, as opposed to focusing on running programs in places where we know the girls need the benefits of our programs. Quantity versus quality.
With all of these changes in organizations, worker’s expectations have also changed. Employees no longer feel a sense of loyalty to the companies they work for because they do not receive appreciation and a sense of loyalty from the companies themselves. Think of it in relationship terms — if you are dating someone and you do not feel they are being loyal to you, won’t you also start losing your sense of loyalty to them and start looking for a new significant other? Employees have the same mindset. I know a lot of my younger coworkers do not foresee themselves staying with companies for more than few years; they are always looking for something bigger and better. The same can be said about the companies. Often times I have seen employees being targeted by supervisors who are looking to open up positions so they can hire new workers. This provides the company with two things: 1. younger workers to whom that they can pay a lower wage, and 2. younger workers who will work faster and possibly be more skilled because they are better adapted to updated technology. This changes the relationships between “employee and supervisor” and “new employee and seasoned employee”. Current day employees do not have as much loyalty to their companies and therefore do not have loyalty to their supervisors. Yes, they will follow directions and protocols put in place by their supervisors, but the respect is no longer present. I remember my father talking about how even though a supervisor in his department was not the most adept at his job, his team respected him because of his position and years with the company. Not many people today hold that same mindset.
Relationships between new employees and seasoned employees have also changed because of the new landscape of organizations. In distant times, seasoned employees were tasked with training and mentoring incoming employees. Today, that is not always the case. More often than not older employees are being terminated so that companies can bring in younger employees who will do the work faster and at a lower wage. This creates tension between seasoned employees and new employees. I overheard one coworker discussing the current termination of a friend, she said “she was always a hard worker, but because she had been here so long, she was just making too much money.” She went on to say, “It’s going to happen to all of us – we are all going to be replaced by the new generation.”
It is more than just the changing mindsets of workers that are affected by this new and fluctuating landscape of work, customer expectations have also changed as well. Customers now expect businesses to be available to them on a 24/7 basis (which is why a lot of companies no longer close for the holidays). Customer’s expect immediate satisfaction and immediate resolutions to any issues that arise. They also anticipate that they are going to get top quality products and services for a decent price, which usually involves employees working longer and harder for the same or lower rate of pay because the company is trying to maintain its bottom line figures.
I am sad to say that the old adage of “nothing in life is certain except death and taxes” holds true. Change is inevitable and what was once a standard years ago has drifted towards the wayside in current day. Companies have changed their focus from the well-being and appreciation of their employees to quantity and bottom line profits. Employees have followed suit and no longer feel or show loyalty to their companies, instead they are constantly on the lookout for something bigger and better. Even customers have altered their needs by expecting and demanding 24 hour service and immediate gratification of high quality and low cost products.