Iain McAdam, Managing Consultant EMEA Human Resources Centre of Expertise at Futurestep
Indecisive. Uncommitted. Flighty.
These are the associations that used to spring up in people’s heads when you said that someone was a ‘job hopper’. But what was once a negative behaviour that carried connotations of equivocation is fast becoming a norm, and with good reason.
The rise in job hopping is being driven primarily by three factors, one cultural and two technological.
The first is a renewed focus on job fit, as candidates – particularly millennials – focus more on whether they enjoy their work and how it aligns with their sense of purpose than more prosaic factors such as pay. This makes them less likely to ‘settle’ for something that doesn’t quite feel right and more inclined to ‘shop around’.
Looked at this way, job hopping is elevated from a negative character trait to being part of a distinct career strategy: portfolio thinking. Here, employees essentially ‘consume’ different jobs like products or services, trying them on for size, in an attempt to both find the best match and to build their skills across a variety of roles.
Thanks to technology, the second factor in the rise of job hopping is that a lot of the friction has been removed from the job-hunting and candidate-sourcing process. Not only does the internet make it far easier to seek out information about different career choices and employers, it also makes these far more accessible through networks such as LinkedIn. It’s also far easier for recruiters to identify and approach qualified candidates using these tools, and using more advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) means they can do an even better job of finding the right people.
Moreover, the age of digital disruption has seen businesses and industries transformed beyond recognition.
This means that the required skill sets and knowledge base within each company needs to be constantly adapting to market conditions. In this context, job hopping makes sense as a strategy to find your best fit within a dynamic job market.
How to hire job hoppers?
Recruiting in this environment has become somewhat more challenging, if perhaps a bit more enjoyable. You have a wider pool of qualified talent to tap into – but a higher probability of recruiting someone who will churn a few months later.
Once upon a time, a CV with three role changes within three years was an obvious red flag. Now, it’s more ambiguous. Despite this, it’s important to remember that there will of course still be indecisive and uncommitted people applying to your roles, so it’s important to distinguish them from more dynamic types.
Here, an HR person’s native understanding of people can be augmented with the analytical capabilities of AI or data analytics to compare an applicant’s characteristics with those of previous candidates who went on to be successful in the company.
What’s more, at a time when the desire to find a company that aligns with your values, a culture that works with your personality, and a role that fits with your skills, is driving job hopping to become a norm, it’s vital employers show candidates their true face.
To get a feel for what a job entails, allow candidates to hear or see real employees discussing the pros and cons of their jobs. This can take the form of written testimonials, videos or even AI that simulate the person, much like today’s video games. When they discover that the reality doesn’t match the traditional HR materials, all of these things are just examples of how to reduce the change of subsequent job-hopping.
In order for this authentic approach to be effective, you need to have a compelling employee value proposition (EVP) that communicates the USPs of your company and role. If this EVP runs through the company like a thread, it will come across clearly in testimonies from real employees.
The job-hopping trend also puts more pressure on organisations to improve their retention, particularly those in high-demand fields such as technology and engineering. Job hopping is frequently motivated by boredom or a sense of stagnation, and equipping employees with the tools to drive their own career progression can make them feel far more empowered.
Traditionally, the idea of career progression has been restricted to training, mandated from the centre of the org
anisation and imposed in a top-down fashion. By retaining the structure of comprehensive career development programmes while enabling people to drive their own progress using digital tools, forward-thinking HR professionals can lay the foundations for a culture where no one feels the need to leave in order to develop professionally and personally.
There are other ways to making sure employees are engaged, and people are clearly looking for this: according to Futurestep’s global study, 8-in-10 (79 percent) of employees agree that innovative approaches to engagement and development would make them more likely to perform better in their jobs. This could involve applying flexible working schemes for a better work-life balance, leveraging mobile platform and concepts such as “Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or offering financial incentives with regular bonuses and performance related pay.
A blessing in disguise
The persistence of job hopping can seem like a downright nuisance to HR professionals. It is, however, a symptom of a positive phenomenon: people wanting to be in a job where they care about the work they do and at an organisation that they feel engaged in.
It impels people to (eventually) find jobs that align with their personality, skills, and ambition – and therefore enables them, in the long-run, to do better work and be more engaged. HR professionals therefore need to adapt to the reality of job-hopping, and reap the rewards that can come with this mercurial workforce.