The CEO: “We need to ensure we have loyal people. People who stay with us for long…”
Me: “What if they are loyal, never leave, but hardly contribute to our success?”
This is an imaginary conversation I wanted to have with one of my CEOs who was not comfortable hiring an outstanding candidate because he felt the individual probably would not stay for long. I did hire the candidate, he stayed for 18 months, left and became a very successful entrepreneur.
Fallacy of the long stint
Many organisations and recruiters have a flawed philosophy of valuing long stints. The usual logic is that long stints bring stability to the organisation compared to frequent team changes. In reality, the long stint is critical only when ‘familiarity’ with the organisation helps the individual perform better and, in turn, the organisation performs better.
Think how discriminatory this is for all newcomers to such organisations – they will always end up playing catch-up. Compare this to organisations that create systems and processes to ensure that tenure is not a determinant of performance, but talent and ability are.
The fast-paced world today is very different from the time of the first Industrial Revolution when average organisational stints were a lifetime – you joined and stayed until you retired or the organisation shut down. Today an average tenure is 3.7 years and accelerating further towards freelance gigs.
By the time we hit 2030, we could be looking at a pure gig-world irrespective of full-time employment or contractual.
There are a number of reasons why people might choose to change jobs, including:
To gain new skills and experience
Typical careers are 35-40 years long. It would be impossible for a single job or employment to be able to provide opportunities in tune with the rapidly changing technology and skills landscape.
To find a better fit for their skills and interests
The world of work has a lot of disengagement – individuals who feel demotivated due to various factors, including ‘lack of opportunities’. This is a primary driver for them to look for career opportunities elsewhere.
To increase their earning potential
Performance and rewards continue to be a big aspect of disengagement for employees. This has led individuals to change employers to find a better monetary appreciation of their skills.
To escape a toxic work environment
It’s been 200 years since the advent of the Industrial Revolution. If you were to ask individuals why they changed jobs, the most likely reason would be that they were really looking for a better manager. ‘Bad managers’ continue to be the biggest driver for the shrinking average tenures in organisations, fuelled by the growth in information and opportunities.
Change is good
If you are likely to face a question about your job changes during interviews, it is important to keep the following aspects in mind:
1. Be honest and upfront about your reasons, and try to focus on the positive aspects of your job changes. If you can, articulate how the change benefited you and how that would be helpful in the role you are being considered for. Your recruiter is interested to see how you will succeed in the role. Give them confidence.
2. Be appreciative and highlight how diverse your skills, experience and network have become due to the changes. Remember that the recruiter may be thinking about how you would talk about them when you move to your next gig. Be appreciative and positive about your past organisations and colleagues. Provide references from previous employers.
You are making the choice
I am often asked, “Will my changes be perceived negatively?” It is a valid concern but the fact is that while the recruiter is evaluating you, you too should be evaluating the opportunity.
You would want the organisation to be able to focus on what value you would add to them while being empathetic to your past career.
More importantly, it is your litmus test as well – if the organisation has a strong bias towards long stints, if you were to join them, would you be disadvantaged compared to the existing long-tenured talent? Should you be making the move then?
Tenure is one of the most discriminating approaches in the world of work, especially now. To value it above the abilities of the individual is inexplicable. Let us hope this changes to keep pace with how the world is changing.