About three years ago, Laura Mattimore, vice president of global talent with Procter & Gamble, realized the company had a talent challenge. In emphasizing learning agility, breadth of knowledge, and digital skill sets, Mattimore says, the consumer packaged goods titan began to undervalue depth of experience. “We had unintentionally tipped the pendulum too far in terms of valuing discontinuous experiences, believing that the more breadth leaders had, the better it would be for their development,” Mattimore says.
Put another way, in terms of the attractiveness of candidates, the company overvalued job-hoppers.
P&G, of course, is not alone. Companies around the world fell in love with job-hoppers in the last decade. Some of the reasons are macro in nature—for instance, more frequent changes in technology and shorter organization cycles play into more frequent job changes. A growing global economy with lower unemployment rates also helped. More importantly, however, is the fact that the underlying traits that lead talent to job-hop dovetail perfectly with the skills organizations need to adapt to digital change. Top among them are learning agility, a tolerance for ambiguity, and curiosity.
But the thinking is starting to change, or at least become more nuanced. On the one hand, companies want the skills that career nomads—talented individuals who switch jobs, organizations, and even careers at a faster rate than others—can bring. But on the other hand, hiring career nomads is a risk. Clearly, they will leave at some point, and the cost of hiring them and their replacement is real.
“Leaders are increasingly asking themselves to what extent are career nomads considered an asset or a liability to the organization,” says Evelyn Orr, vice president and chief operating officer of the Korn Ferry Institute.
In a recent Korn Ferry survey of nearly 850 executives and hiring professionals, 54% agreed that people who have experience across several different areas of expertise are more qualified. But only 33% say that makes applicants more attractive job candidates, and just 23% agree that working for many different companies helps people get hired.
However, career nomads are attractive in certain situations or functions such as IT, marketing, and digital technology. Talent needs related to the development of new technologies or new markets and business units (e.g., B2C) could also potentially benefit from the more diversified experience of career nomads.
Mattimore says P&G reset its development model by putting people into sequential roles in the same business or area of expertise to build on existing knowledge or experience. While the company prefers to develop talent from within, it does look externally to bring in fresh perspectives. “This approach allows us to build well-rounded leaders in addition to deep technical experts, both of which are critical for our business,” Mattimore says.