Scrabble letters that spell out "millennials."

Photo courtesy of Optician Training at Flickr Creative Commons.

Millennials have a tendency to move from one job to another. But while many people call this a question of loyalty, a new study shows that it has more to do with values.

Millennials, insomuch as a generation can be generalized, want jobs that align with their own personal values. Jung Ha-Brookshire, one of the lead authors of the study, says that millennials have “pro-social, pro-environment values, and they are looking to be engaged.” The findings of the study reveal just how committed millennials are to upholding those values.

According to respondents in the study, companies that claimed to support sustainability but didn’t actually work to do so were seen as being at odds with millennial workers. As a result, millennials left these types of job for other opportunities. But who can blame them? Nobody wants to work for a dishonest company.

The study also found that when millennials were faced with a company culture that has different values than they do, they see two options: change that culture or leave. More often than not, it’s leave.

And so to view millennials changing jobs as a generation of disloyalty is to completely miss the point. Loyalty cannot be demanded, it has to be earned. Employers should understand that their workers don’t owe them loyalty right off the bat. Working isn’t a privilege that employees should be thanking their bosses for—it’s a requirement to survive. That means people have the right to work in a place that doesn’t wear them down.

Finding work that is somehow meaningful, whether it’s a job that somebody loves or just a place that they don’t hate, is really the least that a worker can ask for. And as millennials come to dominate the workforce, these ideas are going to come more and more to the forefront, requiring established companies to keep up or get out of the way.