Myth of the executive job-hopper

Oct 25 2007 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Senior executives are far more loyal than might be supposed. More than half in fact expect to work for no more than seven organisations during their whole career, and nearly four out of 10 have been in the same job up to the past five years.

A survey of nearly 1,000 senior European executives by talent management firm, part of the Association of Executive Search Consultants, found that traditional values about job tenure and loyalty remain well ingrained, with many taking a cautious view of high job mobility.

In fact four out of 10 had worked for their current organisation for between two and five years, and more than half estimated they would have worked for no more than four to seven organisations by the end of their career.

Yet there was also clear evidence of career mobility, with a similar four out of 10 saying that a quarter of their senior management had been in post for fewer than five years.

Peter Felix, AESC president, said he was surprised at the findings in light of the demand for talented senior executives.

"Given the current skills shortage among senior executives around the world, I would have expected executives to be anticipating numerous job movements throughout their careers," he pointed out.

A total of 55 per cent of those polled believed two years was the shortest tenure an executive could spend at any one organisation before it compromised the value of their CV.

And more than a quarter believed tenure needed to be at least three years or more.

Seven out of 10 believed that the maximum number of organisations an executive could work for in a 10-year period without being labelled a serial job-hopper was two to three in total.

"This finding likely reflects the widely held opinion among senior level executives that you cannot make a significant impact at an organisation in less than two or three years," said Felix.

"It takes time to establish yourself and make inroads, particularly if a role involves international responsibilities and travel. It seems executives have a healthy respect for the investment of time and energy needed in any given role," he added.

"Perhaps, with much talk about hot job markets, especially in booming economies such as China and India, it is easy to get caught up in the expectation that executives will be opportunistic and bounce from role to role," he continued.

"However, it seems a traditional view of job mobility and tenure remains, at least at the senior level," he concluded.

The research also highlighted the key factors that prompt an executive to leave an employer.

More than three quarters said a lack of career advancement opportunities would be the number one motivator to leave.

This was followed by dissatisfaction with senior management (nearly two thirds) and poor company values (more than half).

Eight out of 10, unsurprisingly, were attracted to roles that offered increased responsibilities and/or a more senior role.

Six out of 10 looked for a more entrepreneurial role, followed by 42 per cent who said they would jump ship for increased compensation and benefits.