Career ADHD: Is Employee Tenure Still Important?

I keep getting told by folks who tend to know way more than me that employees ‘today’ don’t care about staying at a company long term. “Tim you just don’t get it, the younger workforce just wants to spend one to three years at a job than leave for something new and different.” You’re right! I don’t get it.

Payscale recently released survey data showing that the average employee tenure is sitting at 3.68 years.  Which speaks to my smart friends who love to keep replacing talent. I still don’t buy this fact as meaning people don’t want long term employment with one organization.

Here’s what I know about high tenured individuals:

1. People who stay long term with a company tend to make more money over their career.

2. People who stay long term with a company tend to reach the highest level of promotion.

3. People who tend to stay long term with a company tend to have higher career satisfaction.

I don’t have a survey on this. I have twenty years of working in the trenches of HR and witnessing this firsthand. The new CEO hire from outside the company gets all the press, but it actually rarely happens. Most companies promote from within because they have trust in the performance of a long-term, dedicated employee, over an unknown from the outside. Most organizations pick the known over the unknown.

I still believe tenure matters a great deal to the leadership of most organizations.  I believe that a younger workforce still wants to find a great company where they can build a career, but we keep telling them that is realistic in today’s world.

Career ADHD is something we’ve made up to help us explain to our executives why we can no longer retain our employees.  Retention is hard work. It has real, lasting impact to the health and well-being of a company. There are real academic studies that show the organizations with the highest tenure, outperform those organizations with lower tenure.  (herehere, and here)

Employee tenure is important and it matters a great deal to the success of your organization. If you’re telling yourself and your leadership that it doesn’t, that its just ‘kids’ today, we can’t do anything about it, you’re doing your organization a disservice. You can do something about it. Employee retention, at all levels, should be the number 1, 2 and 3 top priorities of your HR shop.

2 thoughts on “Career ADHD: Is Employee Tenure Still Important?

  1. My reaction to this post is yes and no – on the one hand, it’s good to have tenure in an organization for political savvy, relationships, institutional knowledge. But on the other hand, I have seen tenure lead to tunnel vision and a belief that what happens outside in other organizations can’t possibly matter here. What about a mix? Or maybe an encouragement for “boomerang employees”?

    Some of the folks I’ve talked to who are just starting their careers want to learn by doing – see how other organizations run so they can grow their skills. This isn’t ADHD – it’s a desire to learn. Maybe companies can figure out a way to allow that AND bring that person back for a leadership role.

    I don’t have an answer…I’m just basing this on what I’ve experienced. 🙂

  2. It obviously costs less to retain then to hire new people. However, it is important for a company to retain and help promote and grow their internal top talent. So, when they have to hire from outside, there is a good foundation of long-term employees to show those new people the way.

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