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How long is too long?

Some say employees should move on after four to seven years at one place
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By Brian Kreissl

I just passed my 10th anniversary at work the other day. It surprised me just how quickly those 10 years flew by.

While I never thought I would see myself doing the same thing for 10 years or longer, it isn’t like I did the exact same thing these past few years. My job title changed seven years into my tenure here at Thomson Reuters and the work I did changed considerably over the years as well.

I also had a tremendous amount of variety in the things I did, with the result that I learned a lot and got exposed to many different types of work. Not only did I do a lot of actual work in the HR field (in a quasi-consulting capacity, as well as policy development and the creation of content for use in implementing HR programs), but also with respect to writing, editing, product development, marketing, leadership, technology and employment law.

A few of the things I accomplished over the years included the following:

  • Developing and managing a comprehensive online information resource and work tool for Canadian HR professionals.
  • Launching an HR Helpline for our customers.
  • Managing a team of up to three direct reports (four if you count a summer student).
  • Writing, editing, enhancing and updating a ton of content relating to HR and employment law.
  • Becoming well-versed in the development of employment policies.
  • Expanding my portfolio to take on responsibility for payroll, occupational health and safety and records retention publications.
  • Taking on additional responsibilities after several different people left the organization.
  • Becoming a published author, journalist and blogger. This included a book I co-authored last year with one of my colleagues and another one I co-authored with two others back in 2010 (although I wasn’t a named author on the cover of that book).
  • Being interviewed on camera and in print about several HR-related topics.
  • Acting as a facilitator for several paid and promotional webinars.
  • Teaching a course on “HR Fundamentals for the Payroll Professional” on behalf of the Canadian Payroll Association. I also served as a speaker last year at the Association’s annual conference.
  • Facilitating sales training, product demonstrations and writing and approving marketing copy, cheat sheets and selling tools documentation.
  • Managing relationships and entering into alliances with professional associations, academic institutions and external vendors – as well as numerous authors, freelancers and contributors.

I mention all of this not to “toot my own horn” but rather to illustrate the point that even where someone appears to have been in a role or has stayed with a company for a long time, you cannot assume that person hasn’t been learning, developing and growing during that time.

Staying too long in a job

I have been reading quite a bit lately about how employers are starting to look negatively upon candidates who spent too long with their current employer — especially if they were in the same job all that time. Conventional wisdom says people should avoid job-hopping, but there now seems to be a sweet spot of about four to seven years with respect to the time people stay in a particular role or company.

Nevertheless, I would argue people who can demonstrate they are continuously learning and growing shouldn’t be penalized for staying with the same company or even in the same role for 10 years or longer. This is especially true for high-potential individuals who are rapidly promoted within an organization and are given numerous development opportunities over the years.

Employee service awards

While many organizations provide service awards and other types of rewards and recognition to employees for specific milestones (for example, for five, 10, 20 years of service and beyond), there is some controversy with respect to whether employers should be rewarding long service or superior performance. Proponents of the idea argue this is akin to unions focusing on seniority above all else thereby fostering an entitlement mentality.

I personally believe both things should be rewarded. Staying in an organization for 10 years or longer is an achievement in itself and provides much needed stability in organizations.

After all, it wouldn’t be a good thing if we all changed jobs every couple of years. Training costs would go through the roof and a tremendous amount of organizational knowledge would literally walk out the door.

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Brian Kreissl

Brian Kreissl is the product development manager for Thomson Reuters Legal Canada's human resources, OH&S, payroll and records retention products and solutions.
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