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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Why Direct Marketers Switch Jobs- Often. A Study by Jerry Bernhart

Written by Richard Levey, DIRECT magazine, February 1, 2009

The average time spent in a direct marketing job? Just a little more than a presidential term:
4.05 years. So says Bernhart Associates Executive Search LLC, a recruiting firm specializing in direct marketing and related positions.

That's not the only surprise Bernhart uncovered in a study of 1,000 randomly selected
resumes. Another is that entry-level people work for 10 to 12 companies. Granted, there were
exceptions. “As amazing as it may sound, there are some direct marketers out there who have
been with the same company long enough to get their 25-year watch,” says the firm's principal Jerry Bernhart.

To reach these findings, Bernhart focused on the most recent position listed on each resume
with a definite beginning and end date. The pool represented job categories at all levels.
To compensate for the fact that some people stay on the job for decades, Bernhart also
calculated a median number — a figure that more accurately reflects the tenure of a greater
number of individuals. This came out to 2.82 years, prompting him to note that movement has
become the norm. It's what an individual does with that movement — how wisely he or she
follows a career path, or is willing to learn new skills or take on new responsibilities — that
makes the difference over the long haul. Bernhart also attempted to determine the reasons
behind the turnover rates. The answer is in the number of job titles listed under a single
employer. There was only one position per firm listed on 73% of the resumes. Two per
employer appeared on 12%, and three on 11%. This may indicate that people jump for promotions.
“This comes as no surprise,” Bernhart says. “Career advancement is among the
main reasons candidates give us for wanting to begin a search.”

What does this mean for CEOs and business owners? First, that direct marketers are spending
less time with their employers than they did 10 or 15 years ago. This means that turnover costs
are much higher than one might realize. And the cost of these actions may be harder to
recognize. Then consider the full impact when you lose a valued employee: There are the
costs of hiring and training a replacement…not to mention lost productivity, business,
knowledge, experience and skills. The list is long. “Imagine the savings a typical direct marketing company
could realize if it could improve its average turnover rate from 4.05 years to 4.25, or even 4.5,” Bernhart says.

The takeaway for marketers, according to Bernhart, is simply this: Think more about how important
it is to retain top performers. Between skills and legacy knowledge lost, the cost of replacing them is higher
than what's reflected in a hiring search.

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Anonymous said...

I've heard speculation that less than two years is job-hopping and more than five years is lack of ambition. Hmm.

Also recently saw a Department of Labor statistic that indicates something like an average 10 or 12 jobs by the time someone reaches their early 40s.

JB said...

Yep, I saw the same thing.
Jerry B.

Anonymous said...

This analysis also begs several questions:
1. is this industry such that switching is the norm?
2. do people switch voluntarily or because the work dries up?
3. is there some inherent value in lingering at a company past a given number of years? This last question should not be approached solely from the cost side but also the productivity/revenue, is a cost savings sacrificing better quality and more innovative thinking?
Good article

Unknown said...

My personal experience is that direct marketing, unfortunately, is flavor of the month. While it has always worked, when the economy turns down, the old tactics (newspaper inserts, more TV commercials!) divert money away from the DM budget. Why spend money on things that aren't measurable, specific, or targeted?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jenn. However, Direct Marketing now entails much more than direct mail. With e-commerce, search, affiliates, and many more things being regarded as Direct Marketing.

I find that unfortunately regimes change. And with those changes, so go the people that were implementing the last regime's strategy. Many companies hire direct marketers to be in "incubator" roles, and if the project fails, or just falls out of favor, they are the ones to blame. A shame. But hey, that's how we grow and make more at the next experience. Wouldn't trade it for the world.

Jack Pendergast said...

Jerry - I didn't see any mention of mergers, takeovers and acquisitions. I was 12 years at my first job and loved it, but then was bought out by a competitor. Within 6 short months, 500 of us were laid off, some there 1 year, some 25 years and more. If it wasn't for that takeover, I'd still be there, taking excellent care of my clients and my co-workers.

Since then, I had one position for 6 years at a company, which incurred layoffs directly tied to the economy woes and am now at a new company, new position, same field.

So FYI - not everyone moves around by choice...some of us have no choice.

Jack Pendergast
Database Marketing Professional

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