Having a job for life is like something from a bye-gone era, like video cassettes, floppy disks and Myspace. But adaptation is the key to survival, and Myspace has made a considerable comeback by capitalizing on the music-lover niche. For the majority of today’s Gen-Y job applicants, who will only stay at one job for an average of 4.4 years, adaptability and flexibility is also the only option.
Job tenure is down and churn is up, particularly amongst workers in their twenties and thirties. More and more people are picking up new skills and training later in their careers in order to future-proof themselves. Employees tend to adapt way faster to the changing world than companies that hire them, especially the slow-moving corporate giants.
In the next decade, millennials will comprise 50-75% of the workforce. What can employers do to adapt to the changing career spans of these up-and-coming individuals?
Many organizations are already adapting. Henry Farber, Princeton economist, has noticed that “employers seem to value having long-term employees less than they used to.” Those with decades of experience are competing on an even footing alongside those with only a number of years under their belts. People with demonstrable adaptability are now seen as entrepreneurial, and therefore of greater value to employers.
On paper, potential hires who have hopped from job to job (especially in different industries) may appear to be whimsical and risky. When change is the new constant, shrewd candidates manage it by telling stories. How they explain the narrative of their career-path is more important than the black and white lines on résumés and LinkedIn profiles.
The most common question potential employers need to ask is “why?” Find out where the person is on their trajectory; is your company the opportunity that really excites them or are you just another stepping stone? What looks like a trouble candidate that will be out the door in six months could in-fact be a great fit for your open position.
Since the dark winter of the last recession, shifting economic factors have brought about this situation. While the economy and job markets improve, many employees still prefer the freedom and flexibility that comes with part-time work, freelancing, and contract work. Some individuals who lost their jobs during the last economic downturn have decided to stop relying on others for employment opportunities altogether and have founded startups of their own.
While this alternative employment lifestyle is enticing for some, it is unsustainable. These people are responsible for their own health care, retirement planning and without employer contributions, they are required to pay higher taxes. Employers can use benefits and a salary as leverage to receive a longer term commitment from their non-full-time talent, but they still have to sweeten the deal.
Millennials get bored quickly, so you have to provide something in exchange for their skills and creativity. Some are looking for diversity to satisfy their many interests, and some want to learn about all of the aspects of your business because it is good for their careers. Find out the reason and be willing to move them around the organization.
That will sound promising to your employees who will be excited to learn something new. And on-the-job training and mentorship means that employees can transition without the morale-depleting downwards shift in earnings and responsibilities. This also sends the message that you believe in the employee and value them so much that you are willing to aid their career development.
This gesture can not only keep the employee interested but also inspire loyalty in your organization. The key is planning and support –speak with the rest of the team about the transition and convey the importance of supporting the success of each colleague.
Don’t remain stuck on specialists. There is tremendous value in seeking candidates that possess skills which translate well into other areas, like sales into marketing or vica-versa. You may have to spend some man or woman-hours training your staff, but that is far less expensive than starting from scratch with a new candidate.
Once you hire the right candidates, you will need a good system to check in on them. You don’t want curiosity and diversity of interests to transform into boredom and distraction.
Millennials crave feedback but they hate being micro-managed. Checking in on them constantly can feel constricting to a group that requires autonomy and independence. But asking a handful of questions in weekly reports is an efficient way to find out how they feel and to be proactive about responding to their needs.
Questions also give them a chance to celebrate accomplishments, and allows management to discover where they may be stuck or uninspired. You can then provide enough of a challenge to keep them interested in your company and their particular role.
More and more people are making their careers out of the intersection of their interests, skills, and opportunities. But the demands of today’s workforce does not have to be a liability for companies as long as they provide enough stimulation to keep employees excited and fascinated by their jobs. Excitement will translate into longer tenure from employees and higher quality performance for employers. And who knows, today’s “risky” job candidate could be the leader of tomorrow.
Christine Bird is co-founder of Plum, where she is transforming the HR space, one test at a time. Plum’s cloud based hiring solution assesses job applicant’s problem solving ability and personality priorities, quickly identifying those candidates with the right fit. Plum allows you to match your unique hiring needs with the top candidates – before any resumes are read. An East Coast girl full of drive and sass overlaying an internal compassion and exuberance for life, Christine is an artist, runner and dog owner who geeks out to Britcoms.
How are you adapting to the world of short-term hires? Leave a comment below.