Do Long-Term Employees Become Institutionalised?

Could prolonged tenures with a single organisation hinder an individual’s prospects of securing new employment? While long-term employment can be indicative of loyalty and consistent performance, employers occasionally perceive candidates who have remained with one employer for over a decade as “institutionalised.”

In an era marked by rapid technological advancements and fluctuating economies, organisations are increasingly interested in hiring employees who can thrive in rapidly changing environments. Some employers believe they are reducing hiring risks by identifying candidates who have gained experience in different work settings. This can inadvertently lead to biases against individuals who have displayed loyalty to a single employer for an extended period.

Fiona McDonald, Business Operations Manager for Walmsley Wilkinson Executive Recruitment, notes, “Employers are seeking to achieve an agile and flexible workforce with people who already have a track record of achieving success in varied environments. Whilst they do not want to employ habitual job-hoppers, many organisations are also reluctant to hire those who have been with their current employer for a long time. Businesses who approach hiring with negative perceptions of candidates who have stayed with one organisation for ten or twenty years, can miss out on some exceptional talent. In a long successful career with one employer, an individual can achieve promotions, role content changes, experience a variety of leadership teams, business growth, acquisitions, integrations, transformations, new products, services and technology. That hardly reflects being ‘institutionalised’.'”

According to the market research provider, Censuswide, in the UK, the average longest employment tenure extends beyond a decade, while in London, it’s just seven years. On the contrary, more than 1 in 10 people in the UK have never stayed with the same employer for more than a year.

Unsurprisingly, age plays a role in the length of service, with younger individuals changing roles more frequently than previous generations. Tech companies exhibit the shortest average tenure, while the public sector boasts the longest. The days of “hire to retire” are a thing of the past, with little evidence of the kind of “psychological contracts” seen in earlier years when employees devoted their entire careers to a single employer.

Fiona adds, “Assuming that someone lacks drive, prefers to stay within their comfort zone and is unable to adapt to change, just because they have stayed long term with one organisation, is a flawed judgement. A candidate’s suitability and motivations should be explored through structured interviewing and not through preconceptions. Businesses that are successful in hiring the best talent, embrace diversity, have an open attitude and are keen to understand the reasons behind a candidate’s past tenure.”

If an employee has spent a considerable time with a single organisation, they must be ready to illustrate the tangible benefits of this experience to a potential future employer. This includes enhanced skills, training, technology proficiency, increased responsibilities, promotions, exposure to different company ownership structures, and more. To demonstrate adaptability and versatility, they should show that regardless of their tenure, they have continued to accumulate knowledge, offer fresh perspectives, adapt to and introduce new technologies, and bring creativity, resilience, innovative ideas, and energy to their next employer.

So, the next time you are tempted to dismiss someone from the interview schedule due to their lengthy tenure with one business, it might be worth reconsidering – a second look at their qualifications could lead your business to uncover a hidden gem!

Walmsley Wilkinson, owned by partners Linda Walmsley and Taryn Wilkinson, offers professional solutions for executive and management recruitment needs. They provide support to a variety of organisations, including large corporations, family-owned entities, private equity firms, and the third sector, helping them identify and secure the best leadership talent across the UK and internationally.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *