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Evan Davis on... jobs for life

Updated Friday, 23rd October 2009

Sometimes, a new face can be just as useful to an employer as an old hand, says Evan Davis, presenter of The Bottom Line. The tricky part is to get the balance right.

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Some people hark back to an era when we all apparently had a job for life. Now they say, well, we’re all much more promiscuous, we jump around a lot more, it’s all far more short term. Of course there's a little bit of truth in that view, but only a little bit. The median worker in the UK stays in a job for about four years. That is lower than it used to be, but it’s not a lot lower. But what’s the right amount of time to spend in a job, when does long service become too long? I asked myself the question because when I started my current job I thought I’d be in it for a couple of years before moving on to bigger and better things, but I’ve been around for fifteen years.

But for the employee and for the employer there’s a sort of balance to be struck, isn’t there? The employee wants to stay in a job only as long as it pays well and is rewarding and fulfilling in other ways too. For the employer, well, you want people who’ve been around a long time. You want some grey hairs, don’t you, people with an institutional memory, and maybe that’s why employers have typically rewarded loyalty; their pension schemes have been skewed towards long serving workers. But employers have to be careful not to let that go too far. They don’t just want grey hairs around, they don’t just want people who can remember how we used to do it, because that will lead to companies becoming stale. They’ve got to make sure they’ve got people coming in with new views, new ways of doing things, lessons from outside.

So the correct answer to how long is the right amount of time to serve is, there is no correct answer. Companies need a balance, they need to make sure they have some people who’ve been around and some who are new.

That’s my view, but you can join the debate with the Open University.





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