Once upon a time an employee of several decades was deemed highly valuable. Today, these long term workers raise more of a red flag than a sense of admiration among recruiters and employers alike. It seems absurd that what was once so good is now so bad. In light of this shift in perception, should only a candidate whose resume is littered with short term roles be hired?
It is worth pondering first how the tables have turned for our devoted employees. Perhaps our millennials have played a role. Approximately 70 per cent of millennials leave their jobs within the first two years. Renowned job hoppers they are continuously in search of their next challenging role. Yet it appears that it is not simply our millennials that have a thirst to seek out new professional experiences. Australia’s CEO’s have the shortest tenure in the world. Averaging just 4.2 years in their post, this trend is seeping to all rungs of the workplace ladder. According to the Department of Employment, Australia’s national average job tenure is now just three years and four months. In comparison, is the lingering employee therefore deemed to have settled? Are they seen as lacking in motivation? Aspiration? Have they peaked?
Equating long term employment with complacency is an ill-fated notion that some less than visionary recruiters have adopted. Many a time a hiring manager has been guilty of branding devoted employees as dispirited and challenge adverse. Many a time a manager has pigeonholed and written off a long term employee for advancement because they have remained in an organisation for too long, performing the functions of their role so very well, it is concluded they cannot excel in any other position. It may be a mistake to think in this manner.
The long term employee may have adapted and evolved through multiple roles within the one organisation. They could indeed be an intrapreneur; a dynamic manager within a company who actively promotes innovative product development and marketing. Unlike an entrepreneur, they work within an established organisation, accessing that company’s capabilities and resources to realise new and innovative visions. It is short sighted to consider these employees as entrenched, disinterested in progress and thus institutionalised. These are not individuals who are rooted within one organisation, but rather are highly employable.
When one does remain loyal to their employer, it is important to consider why. Does remaining true to one organisation meet their personal needs? Are they simply compatible with that company? Perhaps the organisation is doing everything right to engage with and retain their workforce. Equally a hiring manager must keep an open mind and understand why, having being employed with one company for several decades, a candidate is now seeking a new role. Were they displaced from their long term job for reasons outside of their control? Did they outgrow their position? Do they simply want a new challenge?
With a new job often comes a new salary. A 10-20 per cent rise from one’s previous income is not unusual in keeping pace with current market trends. Averages for those remaining loyal within an organisation hover around three per cent, often falling behind current market conditions. It is yet another incentive driving employees to switch companies when they feel their loyalty and effort is undervalued. Yet the cost of employee turnover can span from as little as 16 per cent of an employee’s annual salary, to over 200 per cent, depending on their position and pay within the company. In light of this factor, what are the benefits of investing in a recruit with a track record of switching jobs every couple of years over retaining and developing an existing workforce? Is it better to invest in employment retention strategies than continually turnover staff?
So many organisations preach that their employees are their most valuable asset. Yet actions and ideals don’t always match that which is spoken. Long term employees can feel insignificant alongside new recruits who are treated better, being offered higher rates of pay, training and development and other incentives. With a sense of being taken for granted, the loyal employee speaks with their feet, taking with them their years of invaluable knowledge and experience. Suddenly they are now in receipt of the new recruit treatment. And they like it. Before your organisation finds itself faced with the scenario of a sudden departure of a devoted employee and a huge gap in the level of expertise, ask yourself this question; if you had to hire a new recruit to replace your long time employee, would you pay them more or less than your present employee and why?