The Normalization of Job Hopping

Workers no longer expect to stay with companies for their lifetimes. In fact, it’s increasingly common for employees to stick around for as little as a year before moving on to a new role, where they also expect to have a short tenure. It’s a practice long known as “job hopping,” although the stigma once attached to that term has faded considerably, at least in the minds of younger workers.

Job Hopping Becoming the Norm

Back in the 1970s, “job hopping was likened to vagrancy and branded ‘Hobo Syndrome’ by industrial psychologists,” writes Alex Christian in an article for BBC Worklife. “As such, the practice has received a bad rap in many quarters; from recruiters and executives, but also older workers for whom accruing career capital was a hallmark of professional life. However, these stereotypes may be outdated.” Today’s tight labor market coupled with companies showing “less and less loyalty to workers,” means that job hopping is becoming increasingly lucrative for employees who are “reaping the rewards, gaining sizable pay rises and greatly accelerating their career progression.”

Younger Workers More Likely to Hop

Generally, younger workers are more prone to job hopping than older workers. “Following the Great Resignation and subsequent hiring crisis, job hopping seems to have swelled even further,” says Christian. “In a February 2022 LinkedIn study of more than 20,000 US workers, 25% of Gen Zers and 23% of millennials said they hoped or planned to leave their current employers within the next six months.”

While the job-hopping trend may create additional opportunities for employers to snag top talent from their competitors, on balance, it’s a negative trend from an employer’s perspective. Even if a company poaches as many employees as it loses, a rotating door of short-tenured staff means less institutional knowledge and continuity and greater onboarding, recruitment, and training costs.

Combatting Job Hopping

So how can companies mitigate the tendency of their workers to leave so quickly? Christian and others argue that the rise in job hopping and the decline of workers aspiring to a lifelong career with a single employer started in the 1980s as employers themselves began demonstrating less and less loyalty to employers—elimination of pension plans, cost-cutting layoffs, etc. In other words, loyalty is a two-way street, and employees today have tremendous leverage with employers.

Those companies that wish to keep staff around for the long term need to find ways to cultivate a sense of mutual loyalty and long-term commitment.

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