How to reward career nomads

Job-hoppers, or career nomads, have occupied a see-sawing position in the workplace over the years. Their willingness to change jobs, companies or careers was once viewed with distrust, but companies around the world suddenly fell in love with the breadth of skills and experience that job-hoppers bring over the last decade. Now the balance seems to be shifting again.

Recent research by Korn Ferry shows a disconnect emerging between how talent and hiring managers view job-hopping. While 88% of respondents say switching jobs has helped advance their career, only 55% of employers say their company frequently hires professionals with nontraditional career paths. Organisations are increasingly asking themselves, are career nomads an asset or a liability?

The key for organisations is to figure out how to leverage the skills career nomads bring to bear while also creating an enticing enough environment to keep them around as long as possible. An important part of this is aligning your rewards and benefits offerings to the needs of career nomads.

The career nomad conundrum

The thing about career nomads is they are typically strong talent. They’re highly talented and highly learning agile, but for whatever reason, they prefer the challenge of frequent change and the development opportunities it brings. And they’re not just millennials, members of all generations are embracing career nomadism.

For employers, this presents a quandary. In today’s fast-paced, ambiguous work environment, these are exactly the skills that can create a competitive edge. At the same time, employers know these people will, inevitably, want to move on.

Tolerance for job-hopping also tends to change as workers move up the career ladder. Curiosity and risk-taking are often seen as more desirable in the early years of a career. But when it comes to mid- and senior-level roles, employers start looking for stability, subject-matter expertise, and longevity. Go higher, and companies prefer to develop their own talent to take on executive and managerial positions.

At the same time, organisations need the career nomad mind and skill set, not only in junior or specialised roles, but to lead innovative thinking at more senior levels. The question is how to make it work for both employer and employee. Organisations with best-in-class talent and reward practices are finding ways to leverage more value from career nomads and reduce the risk of losing them too soon.

Rewarding career nomads

Just as with traditional career pathers, reward will only be an effective lever if your strategy is flexible enough to offer career nomads what they need and want from a rewards package. And the reality is, job-hoppers and job-stayers have similar priorities. Both want to achieve their career goals, do interesting and meaningful work, leverage their strengths, and earn more money. Both will stay longer at a company where they feel challenged, see opportunities to advance and are well led. On the flipside, both will quickly leave if they’re bored or not challenged, aren’t treated well or lose confidence in management.

Shaping a rewards package that can target the nuanced priorities of career nomads is an important part of this. Certain elements will be off the table, for example long-term incentives won’t attract career nomads who will automatically picture themselves leaving before the LTI is in play.

Career nomads are more likely to be attracted by the immediate elements of a reward package, like a competitive base salary and sign-on bonus. But they also value purpose and so the opportunity for community involvement, to have social impact, and other non-financial rewards will be important. They will consider the whole package, from the organisational environment and brand recognition to the availability of resources to make things happen.

Working out how this all fits together in your organisation can be challenging, which is why Korn Ferry developed a Career Nomad Calculator, which estimates the potential net costs and benefits of hiring nomads based on a company’s industry, workforce size, and annual revenue. Find out how the career nomad trend is impacting your company’s bottom line here.