4 reasons employees don’t quit, for decades

Author: Alistair Cox, Chief Executive, Hays plc

This month at Hays we’re celebrating our 50th anniversary. 50 years. That’s a long time in business to be doing the same thing: helping people grow their careers and companies flourish with the right talent. I have to say, this is one of the proudest moments of my career so far, and I know many of my colleagues feel the same.

And so they should. Our achievements as an organisation are all down to them, our people both past and present, many of whom have been with us for decades, literally. Not many organisations in this day and age can say they have employees who have been with them for 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years. It’s admittedly a little ironic that a business that makes its money by helping people find a new role employs thousands of people who’ve worked for the same employer for so many years.

But what is it that makes employees stay with one business for so long, particularly when we hear all the time that people these days want to work in a more fluid, project-type way with multiple employers? After all, work is such a big part of our lives and we have more options open to us now than we ever have done before. So, in order to stay with one employer for such a long period of time, the opportunities and culture have got to be right. So, in this blog, I wanted to share with you what I think are the most powerful reasons employees stay with one organisation for decades.

1. Feeling a sense of purpose

There’s nothing more motivating than getting up in the morning knowing that you can and will make a difference, no matter how small that difference might be. People stay with organisations in the long term because working for them makes them feel good, about themselves and the wider world around them.

A huge driver for me personally is that I have a clear and profound purpose to what I do, and what we do as an organisation. I worked out that in my decade as CEO, we have placed around 4 million people into their next job. That’s massive and it’s really compelling. Every day we as a business are transforming lives. That’s pretty powerful stuff.

2. Not being bored

There’s nothing worse than feeling bored and unmotivated at work. Of course, we’ve all been there from time to time, but this discontentment really starts to cause a problem when that feeling permeates into other areas of our lives. It’s at that point when most people will think about moving on.

So, another reason I think employees tend to stay with an employer for a long time is the fact that they don’t allow themselves to get bored, and their employer doesn’t let them either. It’s a two-way thing.

A good employer should constantly push its employees out of their comfort zones and away from the familiar. Similarly, employees shouldn’t simply sit back and wait for opportunities to come to them; instead, they should actively seek them out.

3. The people

I think our colleagues, those people we often spend more time with than we do with our own families, have a huge bearing on our happiness levels at work.

Long-serving employees tend to enjoy and get fulfilment from the other people they work and interact with every day. After all, it’s often these relationships that have the biggest impact on our working lives.

We all know someone (probably many) within our own organisations that we’ve learnt from, aspire to be, respect, admire and have fun spending time with. It’s these bonds, solidified over time, which often make it harder to leave an organisation. It’s also these bonds that create a sense of belonging and camaraderie which are the roots of great team work, future thinking and ultimately a feeling that we’re ‘all in it together’.

4. A sense of belonging

Lastly, and again this point comes down to how work makes us feel. I think people stay with organisations for years because they feel part of the story. They feel part of something they’ve helped create, and they’re incredibly proud of that.

They’re emotionally invested, and to them, it’s not just a job – it’s a part of their lives and their own life story. And, just like every other part of their lives, they want to see it succeed. So, they feel compelled to be a part of the next chapter, and the chapter after that, and the chapter after that.

So, those are my four points. You’ll notice that all of them touch on how work makes us feel, not on the material things such as money and benefits. Whilst there’s no getting away from the fact that those things are important, what’s more important in my mind is that I work for an organisation that makes me feel good, fulfilled, valued, and, importantly, excited about the future we can create together. 

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