Trends: Employee Tenure, a Two-Way Street with Employer or Fast Lane to a Better Job?

Long-held notions that longer tenure benefits both employee and employer continue to erode as the reported median length of employment spirals downward. In January of 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,  the median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.2 years.  Down from 4.6 in 2014. Way down for select demographics and industries.

Not unexpected, among 16 to 19 years-old’s who were still exploring skills and careers, 74 percent reported having had a tenure of 12 months or less with their current employer. On the opposite end of the demographics, 55 to 64-year-olds reported a median of 10.1 years.

Service and hospitality Industries, which are heavily dependent on entry level employees, had the lowest tenure with 2.9 as the median length of employment as compared to “management, professional and related occupations” with highest median tenure of 5.1 years. Looming in the not too distant future are expected changes to Immigration and H1B Visa policies that will shake-up job migration, leaving employers to contend with a tighter candidate market (4.7% unemployment in February 2017) and even more burdensome training needs.

In addition to personal changes requiring relocation, employees voluntarily leaving jobs often cite better pay, benefits, shifts, and job duties as important factors influencing their decision to move. Escaping a “bad boss” also makes the list. Yet the tenure trends are not only a consequence of job-hopping. Businesses on this “two-way street” are also the cause of short tenure when hires and separations are due to business failure, office relocation, layoffs and automation. Small businesses are especially challenged by short tenure that increases costs associated with recruitment, hiring, and training. Management’s support for career development is weakened when they feel employees are likely to jump ship prematurely.

What are some of the best steps small businesses can take to improve systems and productivity affected by turnover? Not only for the shorter-term employee but for the longer-term employees who can suffer in morale and productivity when they become the de facto trainers, repeatedly?

  • Streamline Onboarding beyond the HR administrative tasks and general job description, to present a roadmap of company information in an efficient and consistent manner.
  • Develop formal industry-specific training that can be implemented by numerous people within your organization.
  • Identify trainers who enjoy the experience and who excel at it.
  • Incorporate websites, YouTube, pod casts or audio files, press links, case studies, etc. for self-directed learning of employees in the early months.
  • Assign an “onboarding guide” for early stage training and “business mentor” for later stage career development (see next month’s article on Business-Based Mentoring).
  • Survey to determine employee feedback on effectiveness of training and interest in career development.
  • Conduct a Succession Planning Review for critical positions.