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Why Do Employees Become Less Interested In Their Jobs Over Time?

A data-driven analysis of employee engagement

2Jun

We’re all familiar with the workplace stereotypes: the young, keen-to-impress, intern, and the lethargic, long-standing employee who needs five cups of coffee to get started in the morning. Anecdotally, we assume that employees become less engaged in their jobs over time.

However, the question remains as to what causes this: is it age or tenure? Do we become more jaded as we get older, or do we stagnate when we stay in one place for too long?

Answering this question can be particularly powerful. If HR departments are able to identify the contributing factors to employee apathy, then steps can be taken to keep the workforce happy, engaged and productive. Fortunately, at Peakon, we have a uniquely robust dataset available to us to help solve this conundrum.

Tackling HR issues with data

Through short, lightweight surveys, we measure employee engagement and its driving factors (for example: workload, management support, personal growth) on a continuous basis. We collect this data anonymously alongside employee attributes such as age, tenure, department and seniority.

This allows us to provide our clients with unique insight and highlight the issues that are affecting engagement across the business in real-time. Additionally, admin users are able drill down into specific employee segments, such as new starters, or the finance department in a particular office.

With data to hand, we conducted a regression analysis on a random, anonymised sample of our database, investigating the influence of age and tenure on engagement levels across multiple industries and locations.

Fall in Employee engagement linked most strongly to tenure

The analysis shows that the effect of age is dwarfed by that of tenure. Engagement levels vary by as much as 1.1 points (on a scale from 0 - 10) based on tenure but only 0.22 points based on age.

Employees with less than a year’s tenure are notably more engaged, particularly those who have been in their role for less than 3 months, suggestive of a 'honeymoon period'. As tenure increases above 2 years, employees report significantly lower levels of engagement than newer peers.

The impact of an increase tenure also varies at different tenure lengths. An increase from 19-20 years, for example, has far less effect on engagement than an increase from 1-2. Engagement falls most rapidly during the first year of employment, before beginning to plateau in later years.

What does this mean in the real world?

The strong link between tenure and engagement is encouraging for HR professionals and business leaders alike. By identifying what drives high levels of engagement in new hires, they can attempt to replicate the effects for longer-serving employees as well. Ultimately, this will result in improved employee satisfaction and an increase in productivity and retention for businesses.

Since a new hire will no doubt be given the chance to acquire new skills and apply existing experience to new situations, it is reasonable to assume that an employee entering a new position feels high levels of personal growth.

Personal growth is not just important for graduates and new starters; every employee needs clear career progression and to be learning new skills, no matter their seniority. Many companies rely on their most established employees to know the business inside out and lead from the front, which can often mean that employers neglect to provide them with the kind support that they expect them to give to others.

Providing senior employees with new challenges is vital to their engagement. This could mean supporting them in applying new technologies or approaches to their current role, or allowing them the chance to take a new position elsewhere in the company. Afterall, their expertise in their field and knowledge of the business is likely transferable and would be highly valued by other departments.

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