Here are some stories catching my eye this week.
Sometimes, it’s best to let top talent leave.
Every leader or manager likely has one or two “star players” that they couldn’t imagine letting jump to other companies. And, in most instances, when these top performers are offered bigger and better opportunities, these managers do their best to counteroffer to keep them around. But a new study profiled in The Wall Street Journal this week suggests letting these employees leave may actually outweigh the benefits of keeping them.
To be sure, there are many reasons to want to keep star performers. It can often be expensive to hire and replace top talent. This reason alone lead many leaders to try their best to retain folks who are trying to leave for a new job. Still, in the right circumstances, these departures can create a competitive advantage for a company, according to a study published by the Strategic Management Journal. Researchers at the University of Washington and Georgetown University studied industry data on hiring at U.S. law firms as well as annual surveys by career website Vault.com Inc. asking legal associates to rate the prestige of law firms. The results showed that increased departure rates led to improvements in a firm’s status among survey respondents when the exits were for promotions at high-status law firms. In other words, when a top performer left a company for a higher-status company, it bolstered the reputation of the firm they were leaving, in turn helping their brand in their ongoing talent acquisition efforts. After all, it’s enticing to want to work for a firm whose talent more times often than not ends up moving on to more prestigious positions. Moreover, as one of the study’s authors told the Journal, this boost in reputation also allowed firms in some instances to hire a more junior and capable employee at a lower salary.
Letting top people go is hard. And the higher the role within the company, the harder it is to replace people trying to leave. However, this study shows that sometimes bosses need to put aside the minor inconveniences that come with letting top underlings leave. It may make their job harder in the short term, but it will help the company more in the long term.
Uh-oh, the biggest stereotype about millennials is wrong.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve grown tired of the world dissecting millennials in every which way. One of the more common stereotypes about the generation born roughly between 1980 and 2000 is that they change jobs more than older generations in the workforce, often a result of boredom or entitlement, the generation’s critics will typically say. However, as Quartz reported this week, this is not really the case.
According to Quartz, which examined U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, millennials stay about as long in their jobs as other generations. The median job tenure for Generation X, those born between the late 1960s and the early 1980s, was actually a bit shorter than that of millennials. Moreover, according to the article, it may be better for the labor market if millennials job-hopped more, as it would help the generation in terms of career and wage growth.
Job hopping is almost always likely to seem more relevant in a healthy economy, when job churn is greater as people feel more confident in their ability to find a better, higher-paying job. This, paired with the rise of millennials as the workforce’s largest generation, has likely contributed to the idea that the generation is more likely than others to change jobs more often. Time to stop bashing millennials for switching jobs so often. If anything, as Quartz has shown, they don’t change jobs enough.
Would a shift to a six-hour workday save companies money?
The standard eight-hour workday has been in place for a long time. In fact, it wasn’t all that long ago that there were no legal standards for how long the workday could be, as it wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that, at least in the U.S., the government stepped in and legislated a standard workday and workweek. However, as time has gone on, and as technology and progressive attitudes around work have taken hold, these standards are being put to the test more and more.
The latest test of how long the standard workday should be comes out of Sweden, according to an article this week from Bloomberg. In February, the country concluded a nearly two-year experiment in which nurses at the Svartedalens elderly care facility in Gothenburg, Sweden, only worked six-hour shifts. The city ultimately stopped the experiment because its funding ran out, but a new paper from researcher Bengt Lorentzon found that working a shorter workday resulted in healthier and happier workers, which over the long term saved money because the workers were more productive.
“Specifically,” the Bloomberg article said, “the nurses took fewer sick days than they did when working longer, eight-hour days. They also took fewer sick days than the nurses in the control group. In fact, they took fewer sick days than nurses across the entire city of Gothenburg.”
Workers of all kinds will likely perk up at this news. After all, who wouldn’t be excited at the prospect of working a shorter day? But while I can see how this arrangement would work in this type of context — hospital nurses — I wonder if this is applicable in other kinds of companies and jobs. Knowledge workers, for instance, who don’t work in a typical shift-like work schedule, might find this arrangement more difficult to maintain. Instead of designing specific lengths to the workday for knowledge workers, leaders might instead consider creating a culture where it’s acceptable for workers to come and go as they please as long as they meet deadlines and their work is of great quality.
Still, most of the working world still has to adhere to some sort of shift schedule for workers, and it can be complicated and expensive in the short term to have to hire more workers to account for the shorter shift times. But, if the enhanced productivity of the workers leads to greater top-line numbers, than it might be worthwhile. Maybe in some industries it is less about regulating the length of work shifts and more about promoting health and wellness among workers — because it appears, according to this study, that employee health is the backbone of the shorter workday’s enhanced productivity, not necessarily the shorter workday itself.
Frank Kalman is Talent Economy’s managing editor. To comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.