Long, steady employment with a single company is commonly regarded as a good thing. These employees have been there, done it all, and know their jobs inside out. Companies where long histories of service tend to be the norm often promote this fact as a selling point. If staff members are staying put, surely they must be happy and engaged in their roles!
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But could it be that long-serving staff members are detrimental to a company's evolution? Can "happy and engaged" employees actually be going stale?
'We've Always Done It This Way'
When it comes to long-serving staff members, they key problem to be aware of is that they may do things "they way they have always been done" and be hesitant to change as a result.
On the other hand, new employees can bring fresh eyes to your organization and more diverse ideas and viewpoints to the table. However, veteran employees may sometimes resist those new perspectives. Do phrases like "Why fix it if it isn't broken?" or "That's a good idea, but we've always done it this way" sound familiar?
This sort of resistance may be more prevalent if many management positions are filled by long-serving employees, giving them amplified decision-making power. If managers believe that doing the job conventionally means doing the job competently, they will see little need to encourage innovation or transformation.
When new employees join an organization, a well-established employee is usually the one who shows them the ropes. Often, these established employees went through exactly the same induction process themselves, meaning the practices and knowledge handed down to newbies may actually be decades old. Does this set the tone for the rest of their tenure?
Make Room for Innovation
Innovative ideas can originate from any individual, and it is frequently those at the bottom of the corporate ladder who identify small operational changes that, in aggregate, can have positive influences on the wider business.
Today, with some much information available online covering everything from new employee engagement tools and sales statistics to the benefits of flexible work, is your company really embracing innovation? Is your company able to efficiently implement changes if long-tenured employees consistently (and possibly unconsciously) reject new ways of thinking?
One of the defining features of millennials in the workplace is their fondness of the question "Why?": Why do you do things that way? Why does X influence Y? Why does it matter?
Millennials want to understand the reasons behind a task before embarking on it. This desire can be exasperating, and you may be tempted to respond, "This is just the way things are. Please accept it so we can move on."
However, you should think of your millennials as "company complacency officials." Challenge yourself not only to answer millennials' questions, but also to start questioning routines yourself. Is there a strong business reason for doing it "the way we've always done it," or are you simply following the same old protocol because it was never renovated?
Many organizations take time out once a year to assess basic procedures for enhancement opportunities (right down to their email templates!), while others have created company "think tanks" that allow employees to submit ideas for improving the status quo. These may be strategies to consider for your company if they are not already in place.
This is not to say that veteran employees are bad for business. Length of service is a good thing, as it invariably brings experience, knowledge, and composure to an organization. You just have to be sure that your company still makes room for progress and innovation.
Lauren Lindsay is a recruiter, blogger, and millennial with a marketing degree from the triple-accredited Strathclyde Business School. Follow her on LinkedIn.