No more lifelong employees: Welcome to the era of the work tourists

By switching companies regularly, tech workers seek better conditions, suitable environments and more money

Software developer Carlos Cuadra
Software developer Carlos Cuadra.Garcia-Santos (El Pais)
Selina Bárcena

They are young, they have been trained in new technologies and their knowledge is coveted by the companies that make up a job market that is increasingly affected by digitization. And they are not going to work all their lives in the same place, like their parents did. Quite the contrary: they are “work tourists,” as Tomás Pereda, deputy director general of the Máshumano Foundation, calls them. They “swing from vine to vine, remaining in each project for an average of 1.2 years.”

“When there is a lot of demand and little supply of professionals, the technicians have the upper hand,” says Alejandro González, CEO of the Talentfy recruiting platform, who also explains that in the technology sector the balance of supply and demand has now fallen on the side of the workers. “They can afford to be a little more particular. If they don’t like something — salary, flexibility, location, having to work on-site — they move on to another organization.” While companies complain about the difficulties in attracting and retaining talent, workers point out that migrating from company to company is the only way to improve their working conditions and move up.

“Lifelong work is over,” says Pereda, whose foundation helps companies transform their work models. In its place, the technology sector is full of these work tourists, people who do not want to stay in the same company their entire working lives. “They believe that in an unstable world, the only stability lies in yourself. From this perspective, they have different experiences in different companies, projects, roles, purposes…”

Carlos Cuadra is a software developer. In the seven years he has been working in the technology industry, he has changed companies “seven or eight times,” he says. For him, this is “the only way to improve working conditions,” although he acknowledges that it is a sector in which he is paid well. Roberto Caselles shares the same viewpoint. For this backend developer, whose job consists of connecting websites with data servers, the sector is in a good moment, and the turnover can be explained by the lack of commitment that some companies show towards their employees: “The reasoning often is: ‘I am not going to invest money in a senior worker if I can have five kids who just finished their studies and with a little training can get the job done,’” he says.

However, Cuadra points out that money is not always the decisive factor. “Sometimes you are in a project and you see that you cannot do much more, so you change to another one,” he explains. “My last change was not so much about the pay as it was about the company. I had always been in consultancies, in large companies, but I was offered a place in a start-up. I was motivated by the work environment there, and that was what I prioritized.”

Computer expert Roberto Caselles.
Computer expert Roberto Caselles.Garcia-Santos (El Pais)

A high turnover rate

This dynamic environment in which offers abound also has a downside. “Since they know that you are going to end up leaving, most companies try to squeeze as much as they can out of you,” says Caselles. He, like Cuadra, prioritized the work environment over the salary in his last change of company. For Pereda, the labor reality has changed, either because in some sectors employment opportunities allow switching from one position to another or because uncertainty leads to a constant search for better opportunities. “People come and go; it’s a new way of living,” he concludes.

According to Myriam Blázquez, managing director of IT staffing company Experis Spain, two factors explain labor volatility in tech profiles. The first is the dynamism and the constant technical evolution in digital matters, which requires continuous training. “Profiles that were valid five years ago are not valid now,” she explains. The second is the horizontality of the phenomenon. “Almost all jobs will always have a digital component, because technology is transversal to all positions.”

Blázquez says that the greatest mobility occurs among professionals who have three to 10 years of accumulated seniority. In the case of Débora Vidal, the reason for staying at the company where she has worked for nine years is the “good work environment.” Still, this electrical engineer does not rule out a change “in the near future,” because in the offers that she receives the base salaries are in the same range as hers.

Whether it is a life philosophy, non-conformity or the workers’ need to improve their conditions, the reality is that the turnover level continues to rise. “We have to know how to play by these rules. Just like there is turnover and people leave, you can create the conditions to attract new people,” concludes Blázquez.

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