February 25, 2020

How to Attract and Retain Talent in a Job-Hopping Market

The average American will work 12 jobs in their life. 

Workers who are paid less than $60,000 a year are more likely to change jobs than their higher-paid colleagues. Indeed, a New York Fed report shows that lower-income workers are job-hopping at rates not seen since 2014.

Yet it’s millennials who get derisively branded as job-hoppers today. That moniker may not be totally fair. Jennifer Post at Business News Daily says, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employees are staying with companies longer now than they were 25 years ago.

Steve Hartert, CMO of JotForm, tells Post that in 1983 the average employee worked for three and a half years at the same company. By 2014, the number had climbed to more than four and a half years. 

Nevertheless, there’s an embedded perception that now, more than ever, workers are changing companies, roles, and even careers with a freedom and frequency not seen before. Workers feel more empowered to make a change even after a short stint at a company, and employers are starting to see the job hop as less of a red flag. Many employers regard it positively. 

Let’s explore what the job-hopping trend means for employees and employers — and how both parties can benefit from this mode of career progression. 

When Job-Hopping Works Against Employees

People need to job-hop wisely. There are clear do’s and don’ts to the strategy, as Lauren MacNeish at the Ascent argues.  

For instance, professionals should stay at a company long enough to develop new skills and properly assess whether the organization is a place at which they can grow. If not, they have a decent reason for leaving. MacNeish says don’t just leave for the money. Do it for longer-term reasons that support professional development and bring a sense of purpose

While there may be greater acceptance of job-hopping, there are right and wrong ways to do it. For instance, roles should still offer employers a clear view of the employee as a professional, Gina Belli at Payscale says. The resume need not progress along a linear route, but the story it tells should be cohesive and structured, revealing personal and professional development. 

Being able to tell a career story through a resume shows employers that the employee, while mobile and looking for new experiences, has been guided by a long-term plan. 

How Employers Can Retain Staff and Prevent Job-Hopping

There are many ways employers can make their organization more attractive to current employees. Here are four areas to focus on.

Promote a Volunteering Culture

Employees who are able to give back to their communities tend to be more engaged. The more engaged an employee is, the more satisfied they are with work. 

So, a simple win for an organization is to develop a volunteer program. Ann D. Clark, founder and CEO of ACI Specialty Benefits, says doing so will boost the sense of pride employees have in their organization and their connection with colleagues. It will promote a sense of teamwork and boost all-around employee well-being.

multicultural business people working on laptop at meeting in office; job-hopping job market concept

Find Ways to Entice Younger Workers

Flexible working options and better work-life balance are important to employees. While this is likely true of most demographic cohorts, millennial and Gen Z workers are driving the trend. 

Alan Price, COO at the Peninsula Group, says the savvy employer understands this shift and realizes that policies need to change to keep workers satisfied. Price gives the hypothetical example of a company that lets people work flexible hours, but only after they’ve been at the company for a half year. An easy win would be to drop that restriction all together.

Remote working is another consideration. Keep communication channels open with remote workers, says Andy G. Schmidt, CEO of Beekeeper Communication. Technology facilitates that communication, but the messaging should encourage a culture in which friendships can develop and employees feel both supported and engaged. 

Make Internal Mobility a Reality

Nicole Roder at SMB news site Workest points to a survey of more than 2,000 HR leaders that found how important internal mobility actually is to people. Nearly half of respondents said internal mobility programs boost employee engagement. Two-thirds of respondents said internal mobility benefits the company.

The move is clear: Develop your employees’ skills and promote from within, or lose your best talent. 

Encourage a Narrative of Career Transition 

A single job-hop can have negative consequences for both employer and employee, especially when the latter fails to honor a two weeks’ notice protocol.

“This job-hopping mindset, combined with the inefficient standard of giving two weeks’ notice, can be an incredibly contentious and expensive problem for companies,” says Robert Glazer, CEO of Acceleration Partners. “How an employee leaves a company can also develop into an ongoing obstacle in an employee’s career, thanks to the increased use of backchannel reference checks.”

Glazer says one solution is to encourage people to have conversations about career transitions and other job opportunities. Sure, some people will move on to jobs elsewhere, but the openness of these conversations could provide current employees with new internal pathways for career advancement. 

It sounds counterintuitive, but fostering an environment in which people feel free to discuss potential new roles can engender loyalty and help organizations retain good people.

businesswoman on cellphone walking up stairs; job-hopping job market concept

Career Mobility Is Not the Same as Job-Hopping 

When a hiring company lacks meaningful insight into a candidate’s story (i.e. why someone has or hasn’t changed jobs), it’s the candidate who suffers. 

Case in point: Jenny Darmody, former careers editor at Siliconrepublic.com, says job-hopping is often still seen negatively by employers. At the same time, people who stay in one role for a long time could be seen as having stagnated in their careers. 

Darmody says candidates feel that pressure from both sides. She tells of an acquaintance who has been with the same company for decades and another who has changed jobs five times in three years. Both worry about how employers will perceive them.

It’s up to employers, then, to judge candidates by their experience, skills, and suitability for a given role. A job-hopper or a company loyalist could be equally valuable to a different company in a new role. 

Further, it’s hard to recognize the difference between reckless job-hops and opportunistic moves. A resume full of short stints could describe a listless person or a person full of ambition. 

Nevertheless, job-hopping is a reality for many employees, and something many must get better at comprehending. Employers who can recognize ambition in a resume will benefit by finding motivated, skill-diverse people who inject dynamism into their organizations. Then, it’s up to the employer to give that star employee a reason to stay around for a while.

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