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value long term employees

Tenure Track: The Value of Long-term Employees and How to Retain Them

The Great Resignation’s most significant toll may have been the mass departure of tenured employees. Losing any staff member is costly for an organization, but the stakes are higher when veteran workers leave.

While the turnover trend may have crested, employers are still battling higher than normal churn. As a result, the value of long-term staff is coming into sharper focus as business leaders prioritize efforts to strengthen retention.

The Assets of Tenured Employees

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average length of time people stick with a job is 4.1 years. By most definitions, long-tenured employees have worked for a company for over five years. Staff who have spent a half-decade or more with the same organization offer unique value to their employer.

Most tenured employees have developed a trove of knowledge, experience, and well-established internal and external relationships on behalf of their employer. Additionally, they are usually the standard-bearers for their organization’s culture, which affects everything from operational effectiveness to providing consistent service to attracting new top talent.

Tenured employees’ assets include:

  • Expertise and industry knowledge
    Long-term staff have had years to accumulate experience, sharpen skills that are valuable to their organization, and develop a deep understanding of the company as it relates to its industry.
  • Stability and reliability
    Most tenured employees are loyal, committed, and have a proven record of delivering results. They are equipped to understand challenges and keep business flowing. Leaders know what to expect from them and have confidence in their ability.
  • Established networks and relationships
    Relationships take time to nurture. Veteran staff members have often cultivated a web of external contacts that enhance the business and forged internal relationships that strengthen the team.
  • Operational efficiency
    The company’s processes and workflows are second nature to long-term staff members. They know how to navigate internal systems, procedures, and hierarchies, paving the way for effective project management.
  • Institutional memory and knowledge transfer
    Veteran staff have been part of the company’s history and retain lessons learned from their experience. They can provide seasoned perspective and help prevent the business from repeating mistakes. As mentors, they can pass this understanding along to newer colleagues.
  • Culture influencers
    Perhaps the most enduring aspect of tenured employees is their deep knowledge of the company’s culture. They are the culture’s most established representatives, role models for newer staff, and are positioned to help sustain a supportive and collaborative work environment. Nothing impacts a company’s potential for success more than the quality of its culture.

The quality of the assets that long-standing employees bring to the table is tied to their level of engagement and job satisfaction. Gallup executive Jim Harter explains further in an article for Harvard Business Review. He writes that his company’s data shows that high-performing staff have three commonalities:

  • They have long tenures in their organization
  • They are engaged in their work
  • They are in roles where the expectations of the job align with their natural talents

While veteran workers are poised to offer significant value, they may fail to do so if they just mark time in their positions, collect their paychecks, and count the days until retirement.

Retaining Tenured Employees

Given their potential value, business leaders would be wise to invest in their seasoned staff members. As Aditya Malik, founder and CEO of, notes in Forbes:

“Attending to tenured employees in modern HR strategies becomes crucial to keeping valuable employees, cutting turnover expenses, and boosting productivity and employee morale. To make it through the increasingly competitive job market, businesses prioritizing employee longevity gain a competitive advantage in captivating and retaining top-level talent. This, in turn, leads to long-term success and increased profitability.”

Malik advises leaders to analyze what their employees want and need from their jobs to retain long-term staff and make newcomers want to stay. They can begin by analyzing why so many employees left their jobs over the past several years.

Opportunities for Growth

The pandemic made people examine what they hope to gain from their employers. Many were newly inspired to grow professionally and moved to companies where they could advance their careers.

Companies fortify retention by providing staff with educational options, stretch assignments, cross-training, and a clear path for advancement. Workers are likelier to stick with an organization offering opportunities to gain expertise and move up the ladder.

Matching Roles with Talents

It’s important to help employees align their growth with their natural talents so they are most fulfilled with their responsibilities. In a blog for AllenVision, company CEO Kim Allen writes:

“You get a high rate of return when you match high performers to the right roles. If they are in the right role, they outperform the average employee by as much as 400 percent. Organizations need to pay as much attention to the allocation of their human capital as they do of their financial capital.”

Staff members are more engaged and motivated to stay when put in positions where they can thrive. Additionally,


Some organizations make the mistake of taking long-term employees’ consistent performance for granted. Leaders often go out of their way to recognize and encourage newer hires to make them feel welcome and appreciated while expecting tenured employees to stick to their work standards and carry on as usual.

Companies can ensure that everyone is acknowledged for their contributions by making meaningful recognition an integral part of their culture. Celebrating veteran employees’ milestones is another way to honor their years of performance. Lining them up as mentors for newer colleagues is another great way to validate their skills and make them feel more vested in the organization.

Jim Harter explains the financial benefits to organizations that ensure their long-serving employees’ job satisfaction:

“Employees who hit the trifecta of tenure, engagement, and talent perform 18 percent higher than the average employee and 35 percent higher than a worker who goes zero for three.

For skilled, production, and support staff, this equates to a financial impact of $6 million and $12 million, respectively, per 1,000 employees. For highly educated professionals, the economic impact essentially doubles from $12 to $23 million per 1,000 workers.”

The contrast to the financial value of veteran employees is the dollar figure to replace them. According to SHRM, the average cost-per-hire for new employees is nearly five thousand dollars. And that price tag doesn’t factor in the time it will take for a recruit to come close to contributing at the same level as their long-serving predecessor.

Aditya Malik sums up the advantages of applauding and supporting tenured staff:

“Long-term employees are the backbone of a company, bringing in a wealth of knowledge and skills from their years of experience. They understand the company’s goals inside out, making them invaluable when setting organizational culture.

These seasoned employees play an important role in setting the company’s image; hence, there is a need to bring initiatives that balance out their value. When companies value long-term commitment, it sets the stage for a workplace that encourages growth, innovation, and success.”