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The Career Nomads Have Arrived: Korn Ferry Study Shows that Professionals are on the Move


Change is good, but it may come at a price. This is according to a new study by Korn Ferry (NYSE:KFY) that looks at the increasing phenomenon of “Career Nomads” – high-performing, talented professionals who are switching jobs, organisations and even careers at a faster rate than others.

While the Korn Ferry study finds that 88 percent of professionals believe that frequent job switches have had a positive impact on their careers, statistics show that the cost for companies to replace high-performing Career Nomads is between 50 percent to 75 percent of their annual salary.

Despite the cost of replacing Career Nomads, the Korn Ferry study shows that more than half of organisations, especially larger Fortune 500 companies with greater revenue per employee, enjoy net benefits from the value these short-tenured employees bring.

When asked in the study about the top goals Career Nomads have when taking a new job, respondents stated: leveraging their skills in better context, aligning with organisational purpose and finding appreciation and recognition.

Korn Ferry research points to certain characteristics that help predict if an employee will seek out new roles and challenges. People with high levels of intellectual curiosity are, on average, 2.2 times more likely to be Career Nomads, and those who have have a tolerance for ambiguity are, on average, 2.5 times more likely to fall into that category.

“Our study indicates the reasons people seek new challenges elsewhere are the same reasons companies want them to stay,” said Jean-Marc Laouchez, President, Korn Ferry Institute. “Career Nomads are intellectually curious. They have a tolerance for ambiguity. They are willing to take risks that can help them excel and provide value for their employer.”

Give Them a Reason to Stay

So, what are companies to do? The Korn Ferry study highlights the top five talent management practices (in order) that can reduce cost and increase the net benefit of retaining Career Nomads:

  1. Offering compelling career development opportunities
  2. Supporting work-life balance
  3. Improving leader effectiveness
  4. Enhancing employee well being
  5. Restrategising rewards and benefits

“While there’s no fighting the Career Nomad trend, business leaders can look for ways to extend job tenure, especially for high potentials who make the most impact on a company,” said Laouchez. “This group needs to be identified much earlier than in the past—then nurtured, mentored, developed and rewarded.”

Korn Ferry has 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.