Does loyalty still count in the City?

How should corporates respond to diminishing staff allegiance?
Most professionals reach a point in their career when they need to make a decision: are they better off staying with their current employer, or should they find out whether the grass is greener on the other side?
Employees of the Big Four accountancy firms are often highly prized and invariably have many options open to them, including moving to other large firms, working in mid-tier practices or taking a role in industry.
So what’s best for the individual? Stick it out and hopefully reap the rewards in years to come, or move around and chase opportunities elsewhere? And what’s best for the employer?

BACK TO THE NEST

I’ve worked for KPMG twice. It’s where I started my career in accountancy in the 1990s and it’s where I’ve now been since 2002. In between, I spent 10 years working for a competitor in multiple locations in the UK and abroad, and during that time I gained a great deal of experience. I left KPMG as an assistant manager and when I re-joined as a director I brought those experiences gained elsewhere back to the firm where I started.
And my story isn’t unusual. In fact, in this day and age it’s very unusual for an individual to stay in the same job for their entire working lifetime. We can expect people graduating now to have had at least half a dozen jobs by the time they reach their forties.
In addition, the battle for talent in London and the South East is fierce, meaning that there are many opportunities for our sought-after employees. It’s a testimony to the quality of the people that we recruit and develop that they are rightly near the top of headhunters’ hit-lists. It’s therefore a fact of life, and of business, that some staff will leave us to pursue interests and careers elsewhere.

KEEPING THE BEST CLOSE

The first thing that employers should be doing to hold on to valued employees is to ensure that junior staff, in particular, see a large firm such as ours as providing a myriad of different opportunities to try new things. A graduate in tax or audit need not feel that they cannot try their hand at corporate finance or management consultancy. A large firm gives them the option to try lots of different things all under one roof.
Second, perhaps the City’s perception of loyalty needs to change. If and when staff do leave, employers need to be focusing on creating an environment and culture that employees will want to return to after pursuing other opportunities. Businesses need to think about building something that staff will want to one day make their home – bringing their new experiences, improved skill sets and fresh insights back with them.

PERSONAL JOURNEY

For the individual, this should mean less worrying about demonstrating continuous loyalty to one business. If you’ve been an asset during your period of service, you will be welcomed back with open arms when the time comes that you want to return.
There’s definitely still a place for loyalty in the City, but both sides need to be playing the long game, with increased flexibility. It’s inevitable that highly rated employees occasionally leave, but if the culture and the brand is strong enough, they will want to return one day – and both sides will be the richer for it.

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