Tomorrow's workers will be serial job-hoppers, more focused on quality of life than ambition and making career choices on moral and ethical grounds as much as on salary, a survey has predicted.
The research by HR consultancy Hudson has sounded a warning for employers that workers of the future – the so-called "Generation Me" – will be less loyal and more demanding.
Of the 2,500 UK employees surveyed, nearly half (42 per cent) said they were loyal to themselves ahead of their employers, with most expecting to change jobs, and even career, several times throughout their working lives.
One in two felt what they do was more important than who they work for, with 63 per cent liking the idea of being "serial careerists", in other words gaining experience from a number of different business sectors and disciplines.
While employers valued experience and seniority, three out of four employees said they would rather be respected and rewarded on the basis of their talent.
Employees were also increasingly conscious of the ethical and moral values of prospective employers.
Corporate reputation was becoming a decisive factor when choosing an employer – with half of those polled taking note of company's corporate values when selecting their next role.
Nearly two thirds believed it was important for a company to have strong ethical values and cultivate a diverse work force.
Quality of life outside of work was also paramount, with more than two thirds determined to negotiate their own working patterns, and expecting their employers to be flexible enough to accommodate them.
There was also an undercurrent of dissatisfaction, as only a quarter of employees felt they were currently in control of their own work portfolio.
But on the plus side, employees were keen to play a bigger part in the development of their companies and their own progress within them.
Three quarters of those polled said they would like to be more involved in corporate decision-making, with only a quarter currently feeling able to criticise the way their company was run, and more than half nervous about expressing an opinion that diverged from the corporate viewpoint.
Hudson chief executive John Rose said this meant employers would need to look at their own practices sooner rather than later if they wanted to win the battle to retain their best employees and attract the brightest talent.
"UK employees are putting their own needs and quality of life first and expecting employers to create a new working environment to accommodate them," he said.
He added: "We are in a candidate-driven recruitment market where talent is at a premium. What candidates are looking for from their working lives and prospective employers is changing radically."