One of the key indicators we often review both in the overall labor market and within our organization is employee tenure and retention.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median employee tenure was 4.6 years in 2012 which has trended up since 2000 when it was 3.5 years. The BLS points out that one of the factors in this is the overall aging of the workforce; “over half of workers age 55 to 64 and those age 65 and over had 10 years or more of tenure in 2012, compared with less than 1 in 10 workers age 25 to 34.”
A few other interesting items from the report:
- Mothers with young children have lower tenure than those with older children
- Employee tenure varies by race and ethnicity; a higher proportion of white workers had at least 10 years of tenure with current employer than did Black, Asian and Hispanic workers
- Workers with more education (age 25 and older) have higher tenure than those with less education
Now that doesn’t all sound so bad, does it?
Yet…other reports point out that as the job market has picked up, workers are abandoning the concept of extending their tenure with a job and moving at somewhat alarming rates; for employers at least. This report that PayScale released last year showed that among Fortune 500 companies, the median tenure rate appeared to vary considerably from the data reported by the BLS; Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, with highest turnover rate, had a median employee tenure of 9 months and less than 10 companies on the list had a median tenure of 10 years or more.
Apples and oranges to some degree; the data collection methods were quite different.
But…there’s no denying that we like to gather these data points when we work in HR or run a business. We invest a lot of time and money into hiring members for the team and find it quite disconcerting when they make an exit before we’ve even had the opportunity to derive much value from their employment.
People leave jobs and organizations for a variety of reasons. While I disagree with PayScale’s classification of tenure as an indicator of ‘loyalty” there are elements inherent in the concept that lead to employee’s seeking opportunities elsewhere. And in many of these cases the ‘losing of an employee” is often because the employer/manager/organization screwed up by:
- Disregarding an obvious style mismatch. Call it fit. Call it motivation. Call it personality. Whatever the moniker, hiring managers know it when they are interviewing correctly; a candidate’s work style, demeanor or motivational factors are not in sync with the job or organization yet the hiring manager proceeds with extending the offer. A good pedigree on paper or a recommendation/referral from a respected peer does not mean that the candidate in question is the wisest hire and the mismatch may be so great that the employee’s tenure will be short-lived.
- Hovering and micromanaging. Management styles vary as do employee styles but, by and large, a highly skilled employee expects to be hired for her abilities and knowledge and allowed to do her job. Hire the best and get out of the way, right? Yet some managers still attempt to command and control which messages to an employee that she is a mere peon who is not trusted to do her job. And she will leave.
- Refusing to provide career development opportunities. Providing growth opportunities for employees is of benefit to both the organization and the individual employee; it allows for optimization of performance and prepares the employee to take on broader responsibilities. And, naturally, highly skilled and talented employees expect to be able to continue their professional development. Denying employees the opportunity to join professional organizations, learn new skills or gain continuing education credits (to name just a few) often leads to an employee leaving Organization A for Organization B where learning and development is not only supported but expected.
I think we can all agree there are more than 3 steps. Have you trod on any others?