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Is the short term career path really all bad?

This is a piggy back off of another thread, which you can find here: https://www.proformative.com/questions/talent-shortage-or-unwillingness-teach . One of the reasons training budgets and efforts have been so slashed is because people don't spend a career with one company any more. I now work for a company that is outstanding at retaining people, very long term. I often hear people lament the fact that companies don't make an effort to retain, and employees have no intention to stay with one company long term. Is this really such a bad thing? While you lose a lot of company/customer tribal knowledge with faster turnover, you bring in lots of fresh ideas/thinking, better industry knowledge, and theoretically much more business savvy personnel. For example, it is not uncommon for an employee to have 15+ years and 2-3 different roles within the company. When I started, I had worked for 2 companies, in 7 different roles in the 6 six years since I graduated college. I wasn't a job hopper, I just had several promotion opportunities presented. So coming in, I had significantly less experience at the role I took, but I had much more experience in the different areas of accounting/finance, and cross functional leadership. Is one better than the other? I don't know. I can say without question, long tenure is a double edged sword. Do the benefits out weigh the costs? Though we complain as employees and employers about the change, I can't help but think it's changed because it's better. If it weren't wouldn't the market correct back to the other way around?

Answers

Topic Expert
Keith Perry
Title: Consulting CFO and Business Operations A..
Company: Growth Accelerator
(Consulting CFO and Business Operations Advisor, Growth Accelerator) |

Chris,

I really like your final point of "the market will decide".

I think there is a balance here:
-If everyone stays in the same job forever, the company stagnates and dies.
-If everyone transitions after a month, the company will likely lose the fundamental interconnections that make a company a going concern.

Job hopping internally is less of a problem, especially at rapid growth companies. The institutional knowledge is retained, and is re-deployed to meet the company's emerging needs.
Knowledge workers are also very fungible; you bring them in to do X. Once X is done, there may not be a need to keep them around (as long as the rest of the organization sticks around.)
High turnover overall is much more of a problem, and cannot be diagnosed from the perspective of looking at each tree. You need to look at the forest as a whole to determine if your churn rate is healthy or not.

From a personal standpoint; you want to hop to gain knowledge, skills, networks, advancement credibility, etc. With each hop, there is a startup ramp. So long as the company thinks you're going to hop, you become less valuable.

The economy kills off the weak pretty slowly...but it does work eventually. So, yes, companies that fail to get the right balance should be less competitive and should die off.

Cheers

KP

Anders Liu-Lindberg
Title: Regional Finance Business Partner
Company: Maersk Line Northern Europe
LinkedIn Profile
(Regional Finance Business Partner, Maersk Line Northern Europe) |

I think it's not a question of whether it's good or bad, but rather accepting that this is more and more becoming the new norm especially with Gen Y filling a larger part of the job market.

So if Gen Y has an attention span shorter than previous generations and is more of a "what have you done for me lately" kind of generation then companies are adjusting to that by slashing traditional training programs and investing less in their employees. This definitely hurts the older generations which are either forced to follow the suit of Gen Y or have a hard time fitting into the job market.

So from a company perspective it has been accepted that employees want to change jobs more often so companies need to have more opportunities lined up in order to keep the best and the brightest. In fact it might even be seen as a negative if you don't want to move on.

From an employee perspective you don't necessarily need to be able to hit the ground running, but you need to be able to hit the ground learning on the job. Also you need to be able to contribute faster. It's no longer so acceptable to wait 6 months before you can really contribute since this is now 25% of your tenure in the position.

As a leader you will now be measured on how well you prepare your employees for the next level rather than trying to keep them in your team as long as possible. Think of it as college sports. You have a constant in and out of athletes and your job is to develop them as much as you can while they are there at the same time ensuring your team performs at the highest level.

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

One thing comes to mind. Training is expensive. The time and resources it takes to get someone fully trained and working on their own only to have them jump ship can become exhausting on management and productivity. I love the spin on this as Anders suggests "As a leader you will now be measured on how well you prepare your employees for the next level rather than trying to keep them in your team as long as possible." If we can be successful at a successor ship program or building future leaders that's when we all win!

Colin Campbell
Title: Controller and Systems Manager
Company: At Large
LinkedIn Profile
(Controller and Systems Manager, At Large) |

At a prior employer, we took the approach that it was integral to the role of management to help our people develop. Setting specific development goals was part of our performance management process. We felt that as our people developed, the company gained strength; if they leave for other opportunities, the company gained connections and the chance to promote within or to attract a new perspective from outside.

Ken Stumder
Title: Finance Director / Controller
Company: Ken Stumder, CPA
(Finance Director / Controller, Ken Stumder, CPA) |

Colin.

I think your response reflects a balanced view of the challenges around development vs. retention. Your Big 4 CPA firm is a classic example. They have robust performance management processes, and view less than ideal retention rates as inevitable in their business model (for every 100 staff, x make manager, y senior manager, z partner). Still, they invest heavily in training and development (they have no choice if they are to be compliant with professional standards) and provide excellent benefits. The long term return on their investment is that they have strong ties to industry where a good number of their alumni occupy senior financial roles.

I personally struggle with viewing attrition in a "positive" light as per Chris' post, but do believe that there are ways for companies to realize value from developing its people that is both intrinsic and intangible, and extends beyond their tenure with just your company.

Mark Matheny
Title: VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis
Company: Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis, Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)) |

Times have changed. I spent a large chunk of my career with one company because I was raised with the concept that the company will take care of you. Even the decline of the steel and automotive companies didn't open enough eyes. I told my children that they needed to look at it differently. Work hard but expect to get the market rate for your efforts. If not move on. It is where the "market forces" have taken us. I don't think that it is necessarily good or bad. It is where we are. Expectaions from employer and employee need to adjust accordingly.

Terry Delahay
Title: Accountant
Company: Formacoat, LLC
(Accountant, Formacoat, LLC) |

Mark, I couldn't agree with you more. I worked for a large company for 23 years b/4 I was relieved of duties on the third round of layoffs in 2009. It's a great company but the company no longer needed my services. I have no qualms about that. I only work where I am needed... otherwise you are a drag on the company.

For the most part, we are rapidly becoming a "Free Agent Nation." Read the book by Daniel Pink. I whole-heartily embrace the concept of free agency.

Keep your own skills sharp (i.e. don't expect your employer to educate you) and reach for the stars!

Anonymous User
Title: CFO
Company: Local Government Agency
(CFO, Local Government Agency) |

"An honest day's pay for an honest day's work has never applied more than it does now". We should not expect lifetime employment nor should an employer expect a lifetime commitment.

And, you're absolutely right about the need for adjustment. However, in my own experience both as a potential employee and as a hiring manager, most employer's have not come to this conclusion yet. They like to speak and act as though they hold all of the bargaining power in the give and take process of the employment relationship. IMHO, they miss a lot of good employees that way.

Anonymous User
Title: CFO
Company: Local Government Agency
(CFO, Local Government Agency) |

Chris:

I can honestly say, after more than twenty years in private industry and more than 15 years in local government employ, that long tenure is the bane of governmental agencies. It's why they are inefficient and bureaucratic. They really need to be redesigned, from the ground up. Lifetime, secure employment with ridiculous retirement packages and all of the entitlement mentality that sprouts from that needs to go!

Topic Expert
Cindy Kraft
Title: CFO Coach
Company: Executive Essentials
(CFO Coach, Executive Essentials) |

I think "long tenure" has become a relative term. Three years? Five years? Anything longer is pretty much an anomaly today, and I doubt that is going to change in the near future.

There is nothing inherently wrong with a short-term career path (relatively speaking, most careers are just that today) as long as you are sitting in the driver's seat of your career with your NEXT logical step clearly in focus. That isn't to say you can't deviate, make adjustments, or even change direction entirely ... but the truth remains, you can't hit a target you can't see.

The challenge is that most candidates are reactive. Rather than preparing for their next move well in advance of needing a new job, they simply default to working their jobs until their jobs disappear. At that point, they are in the back seat not even paying attention to the scenery or the direction they are headed. And that is a very, very challenging place to be these days.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Well said Cindy.

It use to be a few industries where shortievity was the norm, now it seems to be pervasive.

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