Does Your Average Employee Tenure Matter? (New Data!)

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.

BLS recently released survey data showing that the average employee tenure is sitting around 4.1 years.  This 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 careers.

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 unrealistic 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 a real, lasting impact on 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.  (here, here, 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 it’s 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.

3 thoughts on “Does Your Average Employee Tenure Matter? (New Data!)

  1. We saw this with GenX and Millennials too. It’s a young person’s problem. Heck, I graduated in 1987 and I Iwas a “job hopper” for the first several years of my employment. But I was at 18-24 months in before I’d start looking and typically 30-36 months in the job. But in the 80’s and 90’s, this was job hopping. We do strive to increase our retention by promoting and developing our staff. It’s not a “Kids these Days” issue, it’s a young person issue.

  2. I am 35. I was hired by a nonprofit and stayed for 6 years. With no prospect of furthering my career there, I moved on to another employer where I stayed 3.5 years. I then realized I was never going to achieve my income or career goals working for local employers because that job also was the highest I could go in the org, so I started my own business 4 years ago.

    Tenure depends on the career path. For many career paths, it’s impossible to stay longer than a few years I’d you want to keep learning new things.

    Take my anecdotal story for what it’s worth: just another perspective.

  3. Agreed on all accounts.

    Another concern is not staying long enough for a company that has and matches 401k. Or 100% vesting with employee owned companies.

    How is the next generation going to survive when they are too old to work?

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