It takes a lot of effort to find a new job. Because of that, people tend to stay in their positions as long as they aren’t completely miserable. That’s why if the pay is OK and the manager isn’t a total jerk, chances are that your technicians will stay with your service organization for a long time. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average tenure in the repair and maintenance profession is four years. But this complacency can lead managers to neglect their “old” staff while they pursue new hires to grow their business and productivity. Granted, with many techs reaching retirement age, it’s critical to recruit new people, but don’t neglect your current staff in the process.

I don’t use the word “old” lightly. From a career standpoint, the U.S. government defines “old” as any employee over 40. Meanwhile, the average age of repair and maintenance technicians in the U.S. is 42 years old. What does that mean for your company? It means that if you don’t make it a priority to keep these older members of the workforce happy (or at least satisfied), you could lose employees with years of irreplaceable experience.

Here are five ways to keep your long-term employees happy.

Pay Everybody What They’re Worth

Even though it’s illegal to prohibit your employees from discussing their salaries, most people just don’t talk about it. It’s a cultural no-no. This gives businesses the freedom to hire their new employees at market rates, without giving tenured employees raises to match. 

See also: This Company Throws a One-Two Punch to Tackle the Talent Gap

Don’t make this mistake. Keep in mind that the salary of an experienced and effective tech should be higher than that of a new hire. Audit your salaries often and give increases where appropriate. 

‘Family-Friendly’ Isn’t Just About Babies

Flexibility is important to a lot of people. We hear about it with regard to millennials and Gen Z employees, but that doesn’t mean your older technicians don’t want flexibility. Maternity and paternity leaves are great programs, but do you allow flexibility for the 50-something employee who needs to balance teenagers and aging parents? 

Consider the challenges at their life stage, and give them options when possible.

Recognize Experience

While managers should be selected based on their ability to manage and not just because they were great techs, understand that you risk making a tenured employee unhappy if you ignore their competence and experience in favor of the young rising star. 

Listen to the people with years of experience. Some knowledge, after all, can only be gained by doing. Take their views into consideration. If the person isn’t right for management, acknowledge their expertise and skills in another way: a senior title, a pay bump, or additional training responsibilities. 

Ask What They Want and Need

With many field service technicians nearing retirement, keeping your business afloat may mean encouraging them to keep working. Yes, work to train new people, but keep your old staff going as well. To do so, ask them what they want. Are higher salaries valued over flexibility or vice versa? Could combination jobs where they work in the field sometimes and train during other times be a key to long term happiness? The answer to these questions will vary from person to person, so ask!

Recognize Service Anniversaries

While a little trophy that says “10 Years of Service” may be a waste of money, publicly recognizing that an employee has worked for you for 10 years is important. A bonus or a gift is also nice, but it’s really the public recognition of how much you appreciate that particular employee that makes a big impact. 

Added perks can help people push on. If, for example, techs earn another week of paid time off every five years (up to a maximum of four or five weeks), it can help to keep experienced techs around — as long as they are truly allowed to use that earned vacation time.  

In your haste to hire and train new staff, don’t forget your loyal long term staff — or your competitor will make them their new workforce. 

ABOUT Suzanne Lucas

Avatar photoSuzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers. She now writes about Human Resources and Business for a number of different publications.