Married to your company? ... not anymore.

The days of working for the one company for 30 years or more are over, or so it seems.

Consultants and contractors are on the rise and high staff turnover rates have become the norm. With little fuss, more and more people are opting to pack up and move on to the next company.

Twenty to 30 years ago, having a few companies listed on your resume would have indicated your instability, but nowadays it means experience. Rob Aalders, director of IT outsourcing consultancy Xylog, believes that moving between companies started to become acceptable in the 70s. "I think it turned around in that decade, when management gurus started talking about the need to have experience, which meant one-company men were no longer en vogue. The catch phrase at the time was 'it isn't 10 years experience, but one year's experience 10 times over'," Aalders says.

According to sociologist Dr Katarina Agostina, the idea of moving between companies was forced on to employees during the 80s, when companies started downsizing, and it has continued to increase from there.

This being the case, it draws a distinction between two types of movers -- the voluntary and the forced. Hans Oechslin, managing director of PactGlobal, is quick to make this distinction. "There is a lot of movement in the IT industry. There is a great shortage of skills in many areas and companies are buying those people with significant skills. But I wouldn't call it job-hopping -- a lot of people aren't leaving voluntarily.

There are many retrenchments in the IT industry," says Hans, citing Compaq's takeover of both Tandem Computers and, more recently, Digital Equipment Corporation as an example.

Ron Callus, director of the Australian Centre for Industrial Research and Training (ACIRRTS) says, "I think it has advantages for workers, but it depends what level you are working at. It works as a disadvantage for people in the lower end of the market, such as part-time and casual workers."

Employee movement is most common in IT as the work is largely outsourced and contract based. Voluntary job-hopping is not always a viable option. It is common in managers across all industries, as they have the skills and experience which are in demand. This, however, begs the question, why are people moving?

Aalders believes the desire to move companies stems from employees being overworked and put under too much pressure, saying people are put under great amounts of stress where the work day has become longer and the mental demand greater.

"I think people today are more confident in their ability to find another job. People are more mobile -- they have safety nets such as job retraining and the dole," says Aalders.

But he also believes it is because companies have become a lot less concerned about maintaining a "good-employer image" and aren't bothering to retain their staff, only concentrating on key people.

PactGlobal's Oechslin agrees. "Companies aren't providing people with what they want, which is flexible work places, considerations concerning family, retraining, and career advancement opportunities. Money is not the primary motivator for people changing jobs -- they are more seeking career advancement."

This creates it own problems. While companies are looking for the financially viable options, which in part means using contractors and consultants, they risk losing knowledge of the company's history.

Callus sees a change ahead, arguing that companies will start working at retaining their employees as they will not want to continue losing their corporate knowledge through contractors, as new employees don't have the company history.

Aalders, on the other hand, thinks companies will only bother to maintain staff who are key to the running of the business. "A group will emerge that will consist of people who are core to the company and will be retained at all costs and they will be very well paid to stay with the one company."

"Is this culture going to change? I think it already has. Companies are beginning to realise that they need to work on this area. Some of my clients now are focussing on the impact of good HR practices and retention strategies," added Oechslin.

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