Published Date: 03/10/2014
By Reneé Watkins
We have known for a while now that the idea of working for the same company for 30 years and retiring with the coveted “gold watch” and a pension is a dream from another era that no longer exists and is not likely to ever return. As the world continues to get more interdependent and the need for goods and services expands, there are just too many opportunities for employees to advance their careers by changing employers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median job tenure for men over the age of 25 has declined from 6 years in 1983 to 5.5 years in 2012. In 1983 more than 60 percent of males in their mid-50s had been with their current employer for more than 10 years. By 2010, this number was just above 50 percent. In 1983 more than 57 percent of males in their mid-40s had been with their current employer for more than 10 years. By 2010, this number had fallen to 44 percent.
Many workers experienced some level of unemployment or underemployment during the last several years of a struggling economy. As a result, many have settled for jobs that are characterized by short tenures. Examples of this include project work, temporary staffing or contract opportunities. During these types of engagements, it is not only natural, but a matter of survival to always look ahead for your next opportunity. So much so, this behavior has become a way of life for some.
Not all workers do this, but those who do will likely use tools like LinkedIn, Facebook and other professional and social networks during the work day to stay abreast of new job openings for which they may be qualified. This is not to say they are unhappy with their current job. It is just their way of protecting themselves against the unknown and working to advance their careers more quickly in order to recover from any past setbacks caused by either past employers or the current economy.
Dan Finnigan, former general manager of Yahoo! Hotjobs says: “If you’re under the age of 30, you’re likely to hold upwards of 15 to 20 jobs throughout your career. If you do the math – that means you’re going to be changing jobs about every three to four years.”
Recent recessions and the massive layoffs that followed, have proven that employment for even the well-educated and highly-skilled professionals is never a sure thing. Employees may feel that one company will not be able to provide them with a career for the long haul and that they must prepare in case something unforeseen should happen again. They are taking no chances.
An anonymous employee summarized her feelings very well on a recent survey regarding job loyalty and commitment. She indicated her job was both challenging and promising and hoped it lasted at least another five years. However, she stays active on LinkedIn, just in case another employer decides to look her up and approach her with something even more challenging and promising. “I don’t think it undermines my commitment or loyalty to my current employer,” she says, “because that relationship is a two-way street. At any time they could fire me for whatever reason that they needed to. And at any time I could quit and go do something else.”
The lesson employers should take away from this is to never become so complacent to assume that our best employees are our most loyal. Always strive to improve the relationship and provide compelling reasons for your employees to stay with your organization, because at some point, every employee you have will likely be at that crossroads where they have to make a decision to stay or leave.