FM Clinic

In today’s transient society fewer employees are staying with their employers for long periods of time. Do you think it is important to encourage long service? What are the advantages to long-service versus encouraging a healthy turnover of staff? Does rewarding long-service go against age discrimination principles?

ash_brown_polaroidv2THE RECRUITER’S VIEW
ASH BROWN, 
CONSULTANT TO THE FM SECTOR AND BIFM NON-EXEC BOARD DEPUTY CHAIRMAN

Some interesting questions that can have people sitting on both sides with a reasonable argument both for and against long term employment. The world of FM outsourcing has certainly created transient behaviours especially when short term FM outsourced contracts are awarded. Many of you will know what happens when one service provider takes over a contract from another – staff changes are inevitable.

“My company would not think twice about getting rid of me if they needed to cut costs or if they lose this contract so I’m happy to continuously look for other opportunities…” A statement that I have heard on more than one occasion, most certainly at middle management level within service providers which then leads me to ask what companies are doing to retain the talent that they work so hard to attract in the first place? Employees are not staying put as they do not feel they have the buy-in from their employers and feel that they are seen as just filling a hole in a client contract with no investment in them as individuals or consideration for their own longer term ambitions.

Another form of forced transience comes along when one FM company acquires another causing many roles to become redundant due to internal duplication. For all of the above reasons, it is always important to evaluate each person’s background and career progression, with an open mind and industry knowledge of contract changes and acquisitions as there may be very good reasons why people have moved around a lot within the sector, some of which may not be by choice.

Those working within client side teams tend to remain in post a lot longer but run the risk of not keeping up with current trends if their employers are not forthcoming with time and money for CPD which then leads to a disadvantage for those who, when deciding to change roles, try to enter a marketplace which has changed significantly over the years.

Companies should promote and encourage long service within companies as this allows them to have knowledgeable and loyal people who work as a united team. At the same time, I think that unless businesses are constantly supporting and encouraging those long serving people to learn, develop and be a bit outward-facing so that they remain current and are able to bring new ideas in or further their careers internally, these companies will stagnate with too many long serving employees always doing what they have always done.

To answer your question of whether or not rewarding long service goes against age discrimination principles, you would have to define what you would consider long service. In some organisations, long service can be staying for the full length of the contract term and in others, it is staying with a company for many many years. In both cases, rewarding loyalty should be encouraged. If you put everything into your role and your company, then your company should be prepared to look after you and show the same level of commitment back in return.

CJ_Howden-polaroid_NEWTHE HR VIEW
C-J GREEN,
GROUP HR DIRECTOR SERVEST GROUP

I think it’s fair to say there has been an attitudinal shift in the way employers and employees look at longevity and length of service in general. Long gone are the days where people started work, fully committed to a life-long career within the same company if given the opportunity to excel in their field. In today’s transient society, however, employees know that they can jump from one job to another – and even across industries – without rebuke. If anything, such movement can have a positive effect and actually improve a person’s prospects. As such, modern employers don’t tend to expect people to stay year after year. Nowadays, businesses anticipate that change will occur at least every two to three years. This type of movement is considered normal and is usually pre-empted as part of most talent management strategies.

Before we talk about encouraging loyalty, it’s important to recognise that the ‘long’ in ‘long service’ is subjective. Different people will think very differently about what constitutes longevity. A few years, for some. A decade, for others.

Regardless, a thriving organisation is one that is made up of people who know the company inside out, understand the direction the business is heading in and fully realise the essential role they play as part of that bigger picture. This level of understanding only comes with time and companies can only encourage such long service by keeping their people happy and engaged. So, yes, I think it is important that people want to stay in an organisation – not just because it makes it easier to drive business success if everyone’s fully on-board, but also because it goes some way to proving you’re a good employer to work for.

Saying that, some turnover is healthy so it’s essential to strive for a mixture of ‘old’ (as it were) and new blood. Companies do need fresh thinking from time to time; and you can only get so many new ideas from the same people, no matter how good they are. Bringing new people into an organisation can generate new ideas.

If companies are too insular in nature, then they may miss out on what the outside world can offer. Sometimes if you have a team of long-servers, relationships can stagnate a little bit, so recruiting externally can also revitalise the approach to teamwork. Saying that, if people are in it for the long run, businesses have the opportunity to develop, grow and maintain a strong culture. If people are in and out, you can’t build those quality relationships as effectively. Culture is cemented by people and their connections so it’s important to encourage loyalty. As I’ve said before, it’s all about balance.

Employers shouldn’t necessarily reward long service per se, but they should reward commitment, loyalty and people that go above and beyond the call of duty – these three things don’t necessarily translate into years. You can still reward people for loyalty regardless of how long they’ve been there – it’s not about years served, it’s about commitment. Just like it’s not about age, it’s about attitude.

When the time comes for people to move on, it’s important to be accepting and not take it personally. Remember that you’re part of someone’s career story, not necessarily the end of it. 

About Sarah OBeirne

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