The emerging opportunities when having a long term employee workforce
This past weekend it was celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s 70th anniversary on the job. 70 years doing the same job. Of course we cannot compare this anniversary to a typical employment anniversary, but still….can you imagine yourself doing the same role for 70 years? Ok, 60 years, 50? Even 40? My mum when she retired, had serviced the same organization for 42 years!
If you think of how fast technology changes the day to day in an organization, long term employees went from paper driven processes, photocopies, staples, stamps, archives, typewriters to PDFs, touch screens and computers! The ability to adapt to changing times and keep doing your role as requested, shows a level of commitment that deserves all of our respect!
I know, I know, back then things were slightly different: long term service meant loyalty to the brand, respect to the employer and stability. All things that unfortunately have been changing over the years.
Regardless, long term employees are special. I like to refer to them as wisers.
Have you ever worked with a wiser?
Throughout my career I had the opportunity of meeting wisers. Some with 20+ years and still leading the way to newcomers. Unfortunately for some, the organizations they serve, weren’t able to adapt with time and often we see some wisers disregarded, placed in unfulfilling roles, some even seen as dead weight. I had been invited to support meetings where HR spends time trying to figure out if early retirement is the best financial option or how to “download” their knowledge before they leave as they are “walking encyclopedias” regarding processes and the way things are supposed to happen.
Of course the inability of organizations to learn how to master the art of working with wisers results in some frustration and even some grumpy but founded behavior at times.
Reality is that times are changing and with so many moving parts, dealing with wisers can be a challenge to some organizations. But, should it be?
Long term employment done right
I was trained in Japan in lean organizations such as Toyota and Yazaki, and last time I visited, it was still valid: being 10 years in the same organization means you are still “new” and there is a long road ahead.
The employee lifecycle in these process excellence organizations is seen in a very different light. Here are some examples:
Continuous monitoring - Every year, employees undertake aptitude testing to ensure their reflexology, attention to detail, ability to problem solve, for example, have matured or deteriorated. This to ensure an employee, as they “wise”, are always placed in roles where they can be an absolute match to their current ability to perform. This to ensure they are not left unprotected to being asked something they no longer can deliver or have matured to be teaching others and that is not being used as an asset to the company;
Continuous training - These organizations are so well oiled up in their processes that they master the art of continuous training. So an employee, throughout their career, is constantly growing to ensure the customer experience is always in focus. This makes a long term employee to become a sensei in all aspects of their roles;
Teachers for life - Last time I visited Toyota I did a course and the teachers were retired employees. That’s right! A teacher in Japan is a very respected profession and in a company, this is no different: employees that have retired are invited to share knowledge with new employees in a trainer and coaching dedicated role;
The perks of having wisers in your team
If you have wisers in your team, ask yourself some of these questions:
1. What do they know that I don't know?
Wisers are great sources of information and knowledge, especially if you are new to an area or team. They know everyone, every process and they even know who was there before you to share light as to why some things are the way they are;
2. Are they in a fulfilled position and happy?
If you are responsible for a wiser or any employee for that matter, ensure they have been given the same amount of care as any other person in your team. Are they in a role that best fits their ability to perform? If they're grumpy, chances are it's founded! Something happened that explains that behaviour so take time to investigate and help make amends. Metrics are always a great indicator to look for that match;
3. What makes them come to work everyday?
Understanding an employee allows you to better manage their performance. Taking the time to learn what makes them engaged will allow you to better match them as a resource in your customer experience journey;
4. Reminders of the good old days - Processes tend to receive layers of complexity throughout the years. Mainly due to risk and compliance requirements but the fact is, processes tend to become very complex. A wiser may have seen the same process in the simplest form back in the days. Use the opportunity to check if the process could be simplified knowing the history of that same process.
So, next time you see a wiser in your organization, remember there is a sea of opportunities to learn from them! Don’t lose that opportunity!
If you would like more insights on employee lifecycle management opportunities, I have explored in more detail in my analysis of the Great Resignation. You can check those insights here.
Disclaimer: Apologies if some interpretations may offend a reader. I do rely on literal translation at times since English is a second language. My intention with this article is to spread awareness. I welcome your feedback to ensure I will not be constantly making the same errors in translation.
I also write about my own life ,professional experience and learning curve. I am a continuous improvement learner so I welcome you to share extra information and spread awareness with me if you have other ways of analyzing the same issues or you have value-added information to the readers of this article. Thank you for reading.