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Is Talent The Same As Tenure?

Last week, I gave presentations to two very different audiences — technical recruiters and energy providers — yet, the questions were the same. Why worry about recruiting and retaining Generations X and Y? What could younger generations possibly offer that a more experienced, dedicated worker could not, especially in the midst of economc crisis?

Last week, I gave presentations to two very different audiences — technical recruiters and energy providers — yet, the questions were the same. Why worry about recruiting and retaining Generations X and Y? What could younger generations possibly offer that a more experienced, dedicated worker could not, especially in the midst of economc crisis?

  While most employers fully comprehend that a talent shortage is looming, and that sooner or later Boomers will start to retire, taking critical knowledge with them and leaving our companies exposed and vulnerable, few employers openly embrace the option of focusing their efforts on recruiting and retaining younger generations.

Most employers feel their efforts to reach these younger generations have been fruitless and frustrating. So they've quit trying, and they've lost their common sense in the economic slump.I actually heard a horrifying story last week about a company that refuses to hire anyone with less than 15 years experience because today's young professionals are "lazy and incapable of contributing anything of value." (Which is blatant age discrimination, not to mention rampant fear and undeniable ignorance.)Let's not forget that being 20 or 30 today is very different than it was just 10 years ago. And let's also not forget that major change has occurred in the workforce. One of the biggest changes that has occurred is a shift in employer values.Previously, job security depended on employee loyalty and tenure, regardless of the value that particular employee contributed to a firm. Today, rather than rewarding or promoting longtime employees simply because of their tenure, companies have evolved to focus more on locating and keeping diverse talent.Outside of academia, the concept of tenure has become a thing of the past. (And let's face it – academia needs to abandon the tenure concept, too.) A decade ago, it was common to promote and reward employees who had been with a company the longest, but today you don’t see it as often. Employees, especially younger generations, are looking for more than just job security, and companies are responding — or should be, anyway.In 2010, 40% of our workforce will be eligible to retire. Whether everyone retires en masse or not, it doesn't change the fact that with every passing year more people are eligible for retirement and we creep ever-closer to a major workforce shortage.Considering the high-demands of our global marketplace, the fact that talented people are so hard to retain, and that younger generations have so little tolerance for dues-paying assignments, why would any company put a high-performer through unnecessary paces just to satisfy a bureaucratic requirement?In their BusinessWeek.com column, High Performers Won’t Wait, Jack and Suzie Welch state that the uncompetitive practice of ladder-climbing and keeping younger generations on the bottom rung is a "throwback" to the days when an employee's time served could, and often did, trump his value added.Companies have come to recognize their faulty logic when it comes to tenure. An employee who has performed a task for 20 years does not necessarily add more value or knowledge than a newer employee. Promoting an employee simply because he’s been there longer often means missing the boat on utilizing newer, more diverse talent.It also means alienating an entire population with unique skills and perspective to offer as the best educated, most tech-savvy and marketing-savvy generation in history.If a company wants to stay relevant and competitive, its leaders must recognize that young employees with fresh ideas and experience can add value that employees who have been at the same position for years often cannot. New and diverse talent and a range of experience promotes change and innovation.Clearly, tenure is not the equivalent of talent anymore.

Sarah Sladek

Concerned about declining engagement in our nation’s membership associations, non-profits, and workplaces, Sarah Sladek founded XYZ University, the nation’s first and only generations-focused training and engagement strategy company, in 2002.

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