Valdosta Daily Times

September 24, 2012

Newer not always better

The Valdosta Daily Times

-- — Not too many years ago, men and women worked for the same company their entire lives. Even today, you find companies sending out retirement notices for employees who have been there for 30, 40, and sometimes 50-plus years, but those days will soon be long gone.

In today’s business world, finding someone who has worked for the same company for 10 or 20 years is rare, unless they are self-employed or in the family business. The corporate world isn’t what it used to be, and employers aren’t what they used to be either, favoring competition and turnover more than loyalty.

While some might argue that an influx of new blood and new ideas is necessary to stay competitive, others argue that when you lose key employees or members of your core workforce, some institutional knowledge is lost that will never be regained. Newer, faster and younger isn’t always better.

Employees, as they grow past retirement age, may not be able to do the same job they’ve done for years, but they are often too valuable to let go and many don’t want to leave. Smart employers find ways to accommodate them, by moving them to less demanding jobs with fewer hours.

Take The Times for example. Edith Smith worked for the VDT for nearly half a century, and held numerous positions through the years. Before her passing, she was going strong in her 70s and served as the receptionist.

She was also The Times’ historian — she knew everything and everybody in town and was a wealth of knowledge for new reporters. She even happily trained a few editors and publishers along the way as well. Her death was a tremendous loss to the newspaper, but she worked until her last moments in a place she loved.

So hats off to the Pipkin family and to Pipkin’s Motors for fostering that type of loyalty. Albert Herndon has been with them for more than 60 years and is still going strong. Herndon has worked for three generations of Pipkins and is not ready to retire any time soon. The institutional knowledge he possesses cannot be replaced.

More companies should pay heed to these examples. Reward longevity and loyalty. Don’t assume that newer is going to be better. Sometimes, it’s just newer.