Meet & Engage

Are We Still Seeing A Shrinking Length Of Service?

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Length of service with an organisation was fairly constant from the 1950s up until the last decade or so.

Before then, it was not unusual for a CV or resume to list no more than four employers, and any more than that was considered flighty. People joined companies on leaving education and stuck around, hoping for the occasional promotion.

Whatever figures you look at now, it’s clear that the long-term trend is towards shrinking length of service with employers, and it has been shrinking significantly since the last recession.

You’d expect to see length of service slowly returning to normal but in the digital age, things are looking different.

Length of service is not only down over a longer period of time but is declining faster today than it has since wartime.

According to respected blogger Alison Doyle, people stay with companies for an average of five years or less in the US.

The situation in Europe is even less with an average of three years, with the trend being a declining length of service year on year.

Sticking around for a hard-earned promotion is a thing of the past, with even shorter length of service figures for younger employees entering the workforce now. Those under 28 stay with their employer an average of two years less than their older counterparts.

This changes things for recruiters and hiring managers, not least changing perceptions around what is considered to be ‘job hopping’.

It’s natural to see an adjustment like this after an economic downturn. The recession of 2008 forced many people out of work completely and others into new roles, often in unfamiliar fields.

Typically, you’d expect to see length of service slowly returning to normal as the economy picks up but this time around, this hasn’t happened. In the digital age, things are looking different.

Behind the figures, it’s clear that something new is happening and that people are either deciding to move jobs more frequently, being driven to do so by their employers – or companies are offering less security.

Loyalty, or the lack of it, cuts both ways…

Remuneration is clearly a key driver. Slow growth in the economy since 2008 has seen an end to regular pay rises.

On average, year-on-year earnings increases have more than halved since 2007 (4% vs 2%.) – this, after all, is the first generation to earn less in real terms than their parents, and that has to bite.

Whilst many organisations have talked about the importance of retaining talent, the rewards, for many, have not reflected this. This creates a sense that the way to move on, both financially and in a career is to change employer at more frequent intervals.

Where companies have talked publicly about internal mobility being a key feature of their organisation, on their career site at least, the reality has been somewhat different, with a lack of growth, internal politics, communication of opportunity and permission cultures acting as a blocker to this nirvana. Loyalty, or the lack of it, cuts both ways…

With this in mind, it’s easy to understand why people may prefer to look outside of organisations to progress, rather than within.

On top of this, there’s an increased lack of company culture.

Gone are the days of staying with the same company throughout a whole career. Few of today’s 60-somethings expect to retire with a full salary pension (that is if they are able to afford to retire at all).

Again, we can attribute this largely to the economy; in a competitive market, employers are less able to retain staff.

In turn, this results in increased feelings of job insecurity and encourages employees to keep tabs on opportunities outside their existing employer.

Whilst employers might bemoan the lack of loyalty – or in the case of millennials, the fickle youth – employees have witnessed continuous restructures and would argue that loyalty, or the lack of it, cuts both ways.

This article is taken from our whitepaper, The Changing Attitudes to Work. To read the full story, click here to download our whitepaper.

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