The demise of the company man: job tenure in free-fall

The February 2012 edition of Fast Company has a fascinating article (now available online here) about the ways career patterns are shifting in our rapidly changing world. And this state of flux has profound implications for marketers, not only as they plan out their own careers, but also as they consider how to reach and maintain contact with their target consumers.

According to US data, job tenure, the length of time people stay with the same employer, is falling sharply. In 1980, 51% of men aged 35 to 64 had been in their job for longer than ten years. Fast forward twenty-five years to 2005, and that percentage had plummeted to 39%, and all the evidence points to this having fallen further since.

4.4 years - median job tenure of US workersIn fact, for US workers the median tenure in their current job is just 4.4 years, and the average number of different jobs held in a lifetime now stands at 11.4 for men and 10.6 for women. The drivers behind these changes are many and complex, but foremost are the demise of the “job for life” and increasing churn amongst younger workers.

It’s an evolution that is radically changing the way the average consumer lives their life, and has ushered in a new era of insecurity and volatility. Today’s workers have to be more open to risk, less preoccupied with long-term life planning, and more adaptable to changing circumstances. And with these new attitudes comes greater openness to trying new things, a lower tolerance of anything that doesn’t live up to expectations, and a far more intense focus on getting the most out of the here and now.

Marketers must pay close attention to these societal shifts and consider how changing attitudes may affect their ability to tap into their customer base both today and in the future. With falling job tenure comes greater geographical mobility, more rapid short-term buying decisions, and greater cultural diversity. Customer data will go out-of-date faster and business relationships will need to take on a more fluid dimension.

But above all, workers are now living very different lives to the careers of previous generations and the long-term marketing approaches that worked in the past may cease to deliver the results we expect. Today’s marketers must adapt with society or risk seeing their own careers go the same way as the job for life.