Mobility is the new job security

Louisa Wong says that, in a global marketplace for talent, job security has less to do with not getting fired than the ability to get hired

In my line of work, job security is always a concern; all professionals who make career moves are looking not only for advancement, but also stability.

The traditional definition of job security was predominantly focused on "not being fired", as employees burrowed deep into businesses, making themselves as indispensible as possible.

Today, however, job security has taken on a different definition. During a company meeting in which a business partnership was announced, an employee of mine asked: "Will we still have the same amount of job security after these changes?"

"There is only job security in employability," I replied.

A person's employability is defined by how attractive he or she is, as a professional, to potential employers. The more employable a person, the more in demand their skills and experience, and therefore the easier it is to secure work elsewhere. In today's poor economic climate, crisis management and experience in emerging markets are increasingly sought-after skills, for example.

Employability gives the key benefit of job security; work with a steady income, but also the chance to develop new skills and facilitate career advancement.

The business world now operates at a faster pace and staying in the same position for a significant period of time is no longer viewed as particularly beneficial. On the other hand, being highly employable opens up new career opportunities, allowing workers to maximise their potential.

This new definition is much more apt for job security today, especially given employees' increased mobility. In particular, countries such as China have been experiencing much more of this trend - companies need the best talent to outshine the competition, especially given the talent crunch in the country.

Opportunities around the globe are only going to increase, led by the start-up culture which has heavily influenced global businesses over the past few years.

As the global economic slowdown affects every sector, from retail to manufacturing, more and more businesses everywhere are looking to maximise potential profits by hiring skilled professionals.

Where does all this lead? Mostly, to professionals who are much more willing to switch jobs. Various surveys and reports have repeatedly shown that the younger generation today is far more disposed to exploring company and career switches than were their predecessors. Job security now - and in the future - hinges on being able to find new work to maximise opportunities.

As a result of increased mobility, companies have stepped up their compensation and benefits packages in an attempt to lower the turnover of skilled talent.

Paradoxically, this is just as likely to further encourage people to swap jobs, as companies seek to offer better and better packages to attract the best people.

This shift is already beginning to alter the workplace culture, and looks likely to remain a significant factor in employment for the foreseeable future.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: In demand