Shortly after I left Tyco Electronics and began recruiting in the electronics industry, I presented a candidate for a technical position heading up R&D for a major electronics manufacturer. The candidate held a PhD from a prestigious university and spent 16 years at a single company, progressing through a series of positions with increasing responsibility.
I was shocked when my client asked "What's wrong with the guy? He has been with the same company for 16 years?" The first thing that came to my mind was "loyalty." I was surprised that long tenure with a company was suspect when it came to the hiring process.
Job hopping has become so mainstream that staying with a single company for more than three or four years now needs to be justified with evidence of accomplishments and career advancement, much the way job hopping has had to have justification behind it. Some reports say that the average person entering the workforce today will go through as many as 20 jobs in a career.
It's a trend that was true of male workers from the early 1980s through the late 1990s. In that time frame, the average tenure of wage and salaried male employees over 25 years old fell from 5.9 years to 4.9 years. Since 2002, however, the median male tenure actually has grown from 4.9 to 5.5 years. Over that same period, the median tenure of women grew from 4.4 years to 5.4 years. Tenures of women had also grown in the decade and a half when male tenures were falling, but that is largely attributable to a change in the career mix of women that began to favor longer-tenure professions.
Rob Romaine, president of MRINetwork, was quoted recently as saying:
The 1980's and 90's was a period filled with tremendous opportunity, when employees discovered the power of being free agents and the salary advantages of changing jobs. Since the turn of the millennium, though, the economy has been markedly less stable, and employees have been less likely to seek out unnecessary instability by changing positions.
So, somewhat surprisingly, tenures are growing. For employers trying to find top performers, workers staying in their positions longer means simply finding them becomes more difficult. The longer someone isn't actively in the job market, the older and more out of date their discoverable footprints become. LinkedIn profiles go unmaintained. Resumés in databases grow so old they are irrelevant. Romaine notes in the above referenced article:
Finding top talent that isn't trying to be found requires constant surveillance and proactive network-building. There is nothing automated about the process and it's challenging for an internal recruiting apparatus to proactively build a pipeline for key positions that a company may only be hiring for every few years.
I'd like to get EBN readers' thoughts regarding increasing tenure. Are you seeing it in your space? Is it a positive trend? And do you think company in-house recruiters are adept at finding talent not always wanting to be found?