Search for a rewarding job is a humungous task. Not all job-seekers have patience, perseverance and energy to wait for an ideal opportunity to come knocking. As joblessness is unaffordable, most in search of a job grab the first chance — and continue hunting for a better one. Really, every employed person is a potential job-seeker, caught in this dilemma of whether to stay with an organisation or to move on.
Muhammad Bashir, 65, has spent half his lifetime working with a business house dealing in raw and finished leather goods. He has moved up the career ladder and has enjoyed immense respect for being loyal to the company. Though the founder of the company has passed on, his children and grandchildren highly value Bashir’s contributions and consider him an asset.
A lot of people like Bashir have stuck to one job for a lifetime, either for loyalty sake or for fear of being rooted out of their comfort zones. But that’s changing in recent times. The young workforce likes to stay mobile. Switching jobs in short time spans is becoming a common practice. Career jobs are becoming virtually unthinkable.
With businesses becoming more competitive and new players entering the market, qualified and experienced professionals are finding new openings with better prospects. It has become common for bios of job-seekers to enlist a number job changes in short timeframes. No wonder then every time you visit a bank, a telecom outlet or a travel agency you find new faces and the one you are comfortable with missing.
To contain this new trend, companies are now making job-seekers to sign bonds, mentioning they will not quit before completion of the approved time period.
So, does the experience of working in multiple organisations make job-seekers more employable? Are frequent job-switchers considered to be more adventurous and adaptable to new challenges by prospective employers? Is it that employee with an extraordinary long association with an organisation considered a liability, deadwood?
There is no specific answer to these questions.
Ultimately, it is the individual condition of an employee that matters, says Khawaja Nauman, President Employers’ Federation of Pakistan, a body certified by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and having around 550 industries and several chambers of commerce as its members.
He says one of the most important questions in a job interview is about one’s reason of switching the job. “It’s the face-to-face interview that matters most.”
Nauman adds an employee is useless if he has spent a lifetime with an organisation and his growth has been static, but not “if he has risen from a low rank, has been loyal as well as competent”.
He thinks the new generation employees are in a hurry to make money and do not believe in long-term planning, like their parents or grandparents. The only consideration they have in mind, he says, is an increase in salary they get by switching jobs.
Besides an increase in salary, this new generation workforce cannot be contained because only a few private organisations offer post-retirement benefits and health and insurance covers. “One is not compelled to stay back like in the past,” he adds.
He does not agree there are enough jobs in the market – “they can only be created through industrialisation, which seems a far cry”.
Job-hoppers have their own story to tell. “Just like employers try to select the best employees, the job-seekers aspire to join the best organisation,” says Arshad Bajwa, a LUMS graduate and senior executive at Fatima Fertilizers Company Limited.
In this pursuit one may have to switch multiple jobs, he adds.
He says the employee turnover ratio is the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) of Human Resource (HR) department in any company. If people are leaving too frequently there is something wrong with the organisation. He adds, though, organisations try to retain their employees, it is hard to retain new entrants in the job market — “These people may switch organisations after three to six months as they are fresh graduates. They are enjoying their honeymoon period.”
Bajwa says job applicants also look at the financials and brand equity of an organisation and may move to the one with more growth prospects. This is quite a justifiable reason. But if someone has an attitude or adaptability problem, his frequent job-switching will obviously be a negative.
Monis Rehman, CEO Rozee.pk, Pakistan’s most popular jobsite with 20 million annual visitors, believes one of the first thing any recruiter assesses is for how long the candidate has stayed with each employer. “Even strong candidates are rejected if they are frequent job-hoppers — because past behaviour is reflective of future behaviour.”
According to him, a company invests in an employee for the first three to six months to train them. People who leave before they are able to be productive are a setback to the employer because they have to reinvest in filling the position and training new ones all over again.
Rehman thinks it is unprofessional to switch jobs frequently. During times of rapid innovation and economic growth within industries, companies become more desperate to hire, and often lure candidates with significantly higher salaries.
This salary inflation, in the short term, can falsely lead candidates to believe that the best way to increase their salary is by switching positions frequently. However, in the long run, the stable high performers see more growth and are rewarded with more positions of increasing responsibility because of the trust they build with their employers.
Rehman clarifies that the turnover ratio depends greatly on the industry – “For example, the call centre industry has a high turnover rate of about 50 per cent. This is because there is limited growth and learning of new skills, coupled with unfavourable work timings”.
Naveed Siraj, Country Manager Intel Pakistan, discourages job switching before learning new skills. He says many bios of job-hoppers are rejected at the screening stage because this attitude is taken as a sign of instability — “Such applicants are not even called for an interview”.
The banking and telecom sectors, he adds, have seen phenomenal growth in the past, which in turn have led to creation of new jobs. However, instead of training new entrants, they have lured trained professionals from the market.
He says many of his colleagues in Intel have been there for over 20 years. The company has utilised them through job rotation and making them work in different departments such as finance, sales, admin etc.
Siraj further adds many jobs are project-based so the employees know well in advance that they will stay there for a limited time.
Rana Imran from E-Clicks, an HR and IT service provider, explains that mobility of employees is high at the entry level and becomes gradually restricted as one moves up the organogram. He adds the opportunities are not equal for all and those who are part of the professional networks have more chances of landing in good organisations. Often people move from one company to the other in the form of groups and jobs are given on the basis of reference.
Imran says there is an increasing trend of job-switching as the visibility of competent professionals has grown manifold. There are head-hunting companies who search for suitable candidates on behalf of employers without disclosing their identity. This discourages nepotism and give an equally opportunity to grow to those who do not have strong references to back their qualifications, he concludes.