Today, workers use job hopping to advance careers faster while managers try to hold on to them

2012-12-09T00:00:00Z Today, workers use job hopping to advance careers faster while managers try to hold on to themBy Bob Moulesong Times Correspondent
December 09, 2012 12:00 am  • 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker today stays at each of his or her jobs for 4.4 years.

But the expected tenure of the workforce’s youngest workers is only about half of that. Ninety-one percent of the group called Millennials -- born between 1977-1997 -- expects to stay in a job for less than three years, according to a recent survey of 150 hiring managers. That would translate into 15 different jobs over the course of their working lives.

So what would all of this job hopping mean for workers’ careers?

It depends on who is looking at the data and how they perceive it.

For example, many job candidates find that job hopping is considered job instability on a resume. For years, hiring managers and recruiters have stated that they screen out job hoppers, instead seeking job candidates who offer more longevity.

Hiring managers, recruiters, and HR managers make a valid case for their wariness of resumes filled with 1-2 year job stints. They question such applicants’ motivation, skill level, engagement on the job, and ability to get along with other coworkers.

These hiring managers worry they’ll become the next victims of these job candidates’ job hop. For many organizations, losing a worker after 1-2 years means wasting precious time and resources on training & development. The investment of time and money never had a chance to pay off. Plus, many recruiters believe the worker didn’t have time to learn much at a one year stay.

On the other hand, job hopping can speed career advancement. According to the survey, changing jobs and getting a promotion in the process allows workers to avoid the “dues paying” that can trap workers in a painfully slow ascent up the corporate ladder.

Job hopping can also lead to greater job fulfillment, which is more important to many workers now than it was to any previous generation. Job hopping helps workers reach their goals much quicker, because it means trying out a variety of roles and workplaces while learning new skills along the way.

The recession and the subsequent economic instability have erased the stigma that has accompanied leaving a job early. That’s because strategic job hopping been all but necessary for as long as many workers can remember. Workers today know they could be laid off at any time, so they plan defensively and essentially consider themselves free agents.

Older generations started working with an eye on gaining stability, raising a family, and settling down. Not so much today. Most of today’s younger workers are more concerned with finding happiness and fulfillment in their work lives.

So what can hiring managers do to help keep workers on the job longer? Are there steps that can be taken to help promote organizational stability?

These are a few tips offered by workers who choose to stay on board.

· Offer workplace flexibility. Flexible work hours and telecommute policies are even more important to younger workers than salary. To help keep workers around for more than a year, give them the chance to adjust their schedules when the situation calls for it. It is critical for hiring managers to understand the future of work and the demands prospective workers place on employers today. While employees list flexibility as more important than compensation or career progression, hiring managers interviewed did not rate this as one of the top five attractions.

· Listen to workers. More than previous generations, younger workers crave the chance to contribute creatively to the company and have their ideas heard. This helps them grow professionally in each position, which will entice them to stick around longer, since personal development is a main reason workers job hop in the first place. So it is critical to have a policy – even if it is informal – by which workers feel they can make suggestions and exchange ideas. It is not important that every idea be acted upon. It is more important that workers feel they were listened to.

· Communicate the company mission. Increasingly, workers want to work at a company whose values match their own. The same survey mentioned above found that 58 percent of workers said they would take a pay cut in order to work for an organization with values that are similar to theirs. In order to maximize the number of workers who achieve that goal, and therefore stick around for the long haul, make sure to communicate company values during the recruiting process. If applicants know what they’re signing up for when they pursue positions at a company, the ones who would leave due to value differences will weed themselves out.

But above all else, it is important for hiring managers to keep an open mind about job hoppers. Many forward-looking hiring managers have done so, and have embraced a positive outlook on job hopping. Employers need to understand the benefits of workers who wish to develop a broad skill set.

So, before dismissing a resume with many previous positions, it would be wise for hiring managers to consider the context. Frequently, it may demonstrate ambition, motivation and the desire to learn new skills more than it shows flakiness. More managers are realizing that this is the new normal, and coming around to appreciating its advantages.

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