If you walk around any trade fair in our industry, whether it's Fencex in England, Paysalia in France or Perimeter Protection in Germany, you'll hear the same old joke a few times during every occasion: "You always come across the same people here, but they have a different business card each time."
The statement still holds true to an extent. There will always be a few people who have switched from one company to another since the last occasion when that fair was held. But here at the editorial team, we don't feel that there is a lot more job-hopping going on now than previously. Instead, it seems less.
And, if you think about it, that's rather strange. Because at a time when everyone is desperate for staff, you'd expect staff to actually be changing jobs at a greater rate. When you know everyone in the industry is dying for staff, then applying is easy. You can ask for a lot. A much bigger salary for example. Flexible hours. Working-at-home days. A grander company car.
Apparently, something is holding people back. As regards those employees who get on really well with their current boss, we totally understand. If you're 100 per cent satisfied with your job, are paid fairly for what you do, have nice colleagues, a boss who appreciates you and if it's more fun at work than at home, then you'd be daft to look elsewhere.
But we also see a load of cases where that's not how it is. Both inside and outside the sector, by the way. Like when we run into someone and consciously decide in advance to definitely not ask the question "How's it going at work?" because we'd be showered with a torrent of complaints.
The boss is a slave driver, never satisfied with what is achieved and always wants more. Colleagues are lazy good-for-nothings who only work when the boss is watching and otherwise spend all day scrolling in Facebook. Hasn't had a pay rise for 5 years and to make matters worse, the customers are also chronically dissatisfied and you can guess in whose lap all these complaints end up.
But if you then go on to ask: "Why don't you quit then?" There are jobs ripe for the picking. At least look for something that's fun!" – then you suddenly see a kind of panic in their eyes. "Whaaat? Look for another job?" And then they produce any number of excuses as to why they'd be better off staying where they are.
Evidently, looking for a new job is verrrry nerve-wracking for a lot of people. And from one point of view, we can understand that. You have to adapt yourself to a new team, you have to show them what you can do, and you still have to wait and see if the new job is really as much fun as the job description suggested. A lot of changes will be coming your way and most people don't like that experience.
But if you're not enjoying your current job, what have you got to lose? In hard times, when jobs are scarce, we understand if you prefer to sit tight where you are. A bad job is better than none at all. If employers have a lot of candidates from whom to select, then a CV with a few short-term jobs – or even gaps – doesn't really work in your favour.
But in today's circumstances, when there are almost no companies without unfilled vacancies, you'd expect people to be more inclined to try something new. Especially if they're not enjoying their current job. Because if the new job is also not to your liking, you can quit during your probationary period and choose from among a dozen other jobs again.
For employers, on the one hand, it's good, of course, that staff don't vote with their feet at the first hint of dissatisfaction. Especially in times when finding a replacement is nearly impossible.
But, at the same time, it's also rather a pity. Because it also kind of puts shackles on your business. A certain amount of throughput in a company is very healthy. New people bring new ideas with them. New energy to tackle things that have been left unattended for years. It also forces you to keep thinking about how you can make your company attractive to new colleagues.
It's also an opportunity to have a serious discussion with colleagues who are underperforming. Often you don't dare to do that because of worries about them leaving. The chance of finding a replacement is less than the chance of encountering a polar bear in the Sahara.
It also forces you to keep rewarding and motivating your best people to become even better. If you sense that they'll stay put anyway, there's a big chance that you'll allow them to doze off. And just keep doing what they have to do, but no longer bringing the energy they used to have.
We've no idea how this trend ought to be broken. Or whether it can indeed be broken. There's no hidden message lurking behind this column either, it's simply an observation of a phenomenon in the market, which caught our attention. Whatever happens to the job market and whichever company you work for – we'll just keep on typing articles, so you can always read (on your boss's time) the Fencing Times. <