Tenured Employees

HR professionals or hiring managers who have worked in the industry long enough will encounter virtually every type of employee imaginable. From gifted prodigies to hard workers to motivated employees, the modern business workforce contains a mix of individuals from different backgrounds and with different approaches to the workplace.

While a healthy diversity in performance levels encourages friendly competition and can be used as a motivational tool, underperformers can have the opposite effect. This blog explores how you can engage and motivate tenured employees to perform consistently in the workplace.

Tenured Employees and How to Motivate Them

Certain employees acquire a sense of entitlement after they have worked at a company for a significant number of years. In some cases, they were originally top performers and may have won several business accolades as a result; but as time went on, they grew more comfortable and complacent in their roles. Many tenured employees acquire the belief that they can never be reprimanded, or even fired, based on the number of years they have put into the company.

Why is it undesirable to have complacent tenured employees? The answer is quite obvious. They tend to work inefficiently and usually have a much lower output or performance than younger workers in the company. A long-time employee’s complacent approach to work could be costing you significantly in time, productivity levels, and even revenue.

One option is to reach out to a staffing agency to source a replacement. While this solution is an effective course of action, you can still try to engage with them in an effort to bring their productivity up to their past performance. To that end, here are a few avenues to explore:

  1. Revising Policies That Enable Complacency
  2. Clearly Communicate Productivity Expectations
  3. Offer More Autonomy Along with Additional Responsibility
  4. Hold Them Accountable for Their Performance

Let’s take a closer look at these below.

Revising Policies That Enable Complacency

Your tenured workers have likely spent a lot of time in your firm. That means they have a much more intimate understanding of the intricacies of your workplace. Many times, these deep-seated understanding of company policy enables tenured workers to become overly comfortable. Of course, they may also be dissatisfied with an existing policy that could be inhibiting their motivation to perform.

You may need to revise your internal business policies and employee handbooks to address long-term professional malaise. On one hand, your policy changes should focus on giving tenured employees what they need in order to perform well. On the other hand, you need to revise areas that offer benefits, perks, and privileges to workers based on their tenure at your firm. Instead of a blanket policy, you should create a fair system that rewards performance, even for tenured workers.

Both these approaches will contribute to increasing overall employee motivation and that of your tenured employees as well.

Clearly Communicate Productivity Expectations

A lack of clear communication in the workplace can give rise to any number of problems. From missed deadlines to massive reworking, poor communication costs businesses in terms of time, money, and even reputation.

In the absence of this critical component of the employee/employer relationship, your tenured workers may well assume that you have no problem with their performance. Instead of encouraging them to do more, they may become complacent. One of the ways to guard against this is to ensure that your tenured workers know exactly what their performance goals are and what is expected of them. Clear communication helps tenured workers understand that their performance is still under observation, which can help lift them out of their comfort zones and become immediately more productive.

Offer More Autonomy Along with Additional Responsibility

In many cases, tenured workers aren’t solely responsible for their complacency. Employees can become set in their ways when they are offered work that does not challenge them. Top performers routinely overachieve their targets with less effort than many other workers and can become comfortable putting the least effort needed. The ensuing damage inhibits their professional growth, and your business at-large.

In this case, it is up to you as an employer to recognize when your top performers are becoming complacent in their roles. One proven fix is to offer them more responsibility, along with the freedom or autonomy to achieve specific goals appropriately. Increased responsibility and more freedom are key ingredients for employee motivation, and will likely encourage tenured workers to start putting in more effort again.

For example, you could put a seasoned IT veteran in charge of integrating new workers acquired via IT staffing into your workplace. Knowing that they are responsible for others will often motivate tenured workers to bring their A-game to the workplace.

Hold Them Accountable for Their Performance

Businesses thrive based on how well their employees perform during a given period. Better productivity and efficiency usually drives businesses to achieve their short-term and long-term goals. This is why it is very important to monitor and manage the performance of your workers, even and especially your tenured employees. Just because an employee has spent years at your firm does not give them the right to underperform, miss deadlines, or underachieve targets.

Therefore, you should continue to monitor their performance, frequently communicate your feedback, and redirect their efforts as needed. At the same time, you should focus on the flip side and offer employee recognition for good performance. Maintaining the balance between holding tenured employees accountable and rewarding them for improvement will help you motivate them to pre-complacency performance levels.

Ultimately, this is the best scenario for most workplaces, since tenured employees leaving can increase employee turnover and result in a loss of business knowledge. Course correction is usually a cheaper and easier alternative than sourcing new replacements.

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