You Have Wasted Your Time — Staying vs Jumping Jobs

So we were having a conversation recently, those of us that started work about the same time. Here’s what we found on the average — those that had moved around greater than three companies were about 3 levels higher than those who had stayed in one organization all their careers so far. I’ve heard people who have stayed on one organization for long periods told “why did you waste your time for so long?” when they discovered that they had fallen behind their peers.

There’s an interesting story of a gentleman who got into banking entry level the day another lady made Assistant Manager (about 5 levels higher if you’re not in those banks that have those devilish extra steps on the same level) but made Senior Manager (3 steps from Assistant Manager) at the same time. His secret; he had moved to 7 organizations in the 10years in between while she had stayed in one for 7 of those 10 years and then made one move.

The question then is, why have big Nigerian companies structured themselves and staff rewards in such a way that it doesn’t make sense for staff to stay in the same company if they want to rise fast. The company incurs cost training the staff, with said staff having deep understanding of systems, processes and culture only to be lost to competition. Most of these staff will be satisfied with promotions once every 2years if the company is doing well (in many cases, the companies are declaring huge profits and growth but staff careers remain stagnant). And in most cases, these staff that leave are replaced with outsiders who are costlier and who have less understanding of systems, processes and culture of said organization. This affects overall stability, productivity and bottomline. In many cases these new people are brought in over and above others who have worked in the organization but have not found an opportunity to move yet, forcing them to question their staying on and further accelerating the human resource round tripping. While they stay, they fester with resentment. I asked many of my colleagues why they made their last two company changes and almost all of them mentioned feeling stagnated where they were and an opportunity to move up in the new place (and earn more of course). Most didn’t move because they were pivoting or anything that strategic or lofty. It was simply to get the next level and then within 12months they were looking for where to get a new level.

We have created a corporate culture where the most compelling incentive for growth for high flyers and the best brains is to move around very quickly and where it is implied or even explicitly stated that you are not serious about your career if you are not making those moves. Many companies say they are concerned about staff attrition but continue to act in a manner that clearly doesn’t take staff career advancement seriously and wonder why staff continue to move around. For most workers, it is the only way they know to actively affect their own career growth.

Companies need to review their incentive structure to enable their performers rise just as fast or at least close enough to others that move around in the industries they operate in, otherwise we will continue to have this human resource round tripping creating a corporate culture of rootlessness.

A Beautiful Mind