A news report this morning acknowledges what we’ve known for some time: people have a lot of jobs over a lifetime.
The surprise in the story however is it isn’t just Millennials and Generation X moving from role to role, but the Baby Boomers (still alive and well) were leading the way with an average of 11 jobs by the time they hit their mid-40’s. The Bureau of Labor Statistics report (cited here) implies an interesting shift in employment assumptions both for workers and employers and has broader implications for social policy.
If workers continue to change jobs, not just from one company to the next, but from one career to the next the questions that come out of that are several.
- If constantly restarting in different fields age differences become even less relevant in the workplace as older workers very likely can have less experience in one job vs a younger counterpart: age then, does not equal seniority axiomatically
- With restarting becoming more and more familiar, workers of all ages become masters at managing personal change: the change management focus of many HR shops then may ultimately be much ado about nothing
- If workers move from field to field, then a long-term reward focus (retirement, service, etc) becomes a mute point: workers don’t need long-term schemes in a short term workplace
- Recruiting must adapt too – as it largely already has – and look at employees in a two-five year window. Long-term becomes relative but the days of careers made in one firm are long over: HR and Recruiting are out of sync here as Recruiting knows time in limited but HR pretends it is decades-long
There are other factors and disconnects as well not the least of which is what happens in old age if workers have not maximized social security earnings nor 401k (or similar) retirement plans over the span of their career: how will these mobile workers spend their last years? Does retirement ultimately become an artifact with people working to their death.
Like they did “normally” up until less than a hundred years ago.
The personal and societal implications for the mobile worker – having many jobs of different types over a “career” – are enormous, and yet many HR shops have not penetrated this phenomenon. What does it mean to have multiple and varied jobs? How does this affect competency development, skill banks, expectations of employers and the fundamental compact between employee and employer?
The assumptions the HR cannon has been built on has been an “either/or” status: you’re either long-term allowing us years to shape, develop and deploy you or you’re a “temp” whom we pay little – if any – attention to. Yet demographics tell us the there is another type of employee – the long-term short-term worker entering [your] employment at various ages with a host of per-conceived notions and expectations about the employment bargain.
We need to think harder and more creatively about what this means for our companies as our employment strategies are out of sync with this gap growing wider every year.
Workers have shown us they’re ready and able to move on: have we figured out how best to use them while they’re ours?