Posted May 21, 2013 by Missy Burgess 

Tenure of Employment: How Long Will You Stay?

Last week was the annual staff recognition luncheon on our campus. The Human Resources Department hosts this annual banquet to recognize those who have served five, 10, 15, etc. years of employment on our campus. The longest serving employees recognized had served more than 45 years at the University of North Dakota! I remember attending this luncheon my first year and commenting to one of my (also new) colleagues that I could not imagine being recognized for five or 10 years of service to the institution, much less working 45 years in the same place. (I was recognized for five years of employment at this event, so I have outlasted my own expectations.)

Out of curiosity after the event, I did some research and found this: “The average worker today stays at each of his or her jobs for 4.4 years according to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the expected tenure of the workforce’s youngest employees is about half that.” Some hypothesize that this comes from economic instability; others posit that it is related to aspirations for growth and promotion. The latter matches the notion that was shared with me as I grew into the field of student affairs—if you want to move up, you will most likely have to move on.

There are advantages to having both new and more veteran employees. We often say that new staff bring new ideas and a new energy to their position. The longest tenured employee in our union has worked in the building for 44 years. The relationships she has built and knowledge she has will be extremely difficult to replace when she moves on. She can truly work “magic” to make things happen with our facilities staff. The event reminded me that it is important to remember and recognize both sets of contributions that make our teams function.

So, what makes a difference whether to stay or go in a position? When will I reach the point where is it okay to say, “I’m happy in the position I have and am content to stay”? Is today’s generation so different that there will not be employees with 45 years of tenure to recognize in the future? How do you recognize both new and veteran employees on your campus?
Missy Burgess

Missy Burgess is the Associate Director for Student Involvement at University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh.

Missy supervises student leadership and involvement staff in the Reeve Memorial Union, including volunteer service, student organizations and emerging programs, Reeve Union Board, leadership, diversity and inclusion, and greek life. She holds a bachelor’s from Southern Illinois University–Edwardsville, a master’s from Kansas State University, and a Ph.D. in educational leadership from the University of North Dakota.


Great post Missy - we've tried to figure out how to 1) track and 2) recognize people who hit milestones of employment. For me personally, I hope to have continuous employment, but it may be that because I moved around a lot growing up in a military family, and having moved during my own military service, I value the roots we've put down over what may be new and exciting elsewhere. I'm also fortunate that my current employer keeps challenging me with new and exciting positions, so the work may change, but the home address doesn't!
Jeff Pelletier
Comment posted 05/21/2013 6:11 PM
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