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The Job-hopping Phenomenon

08/24/2016 by Greg Karr

How HR can harness the power of a transitory workforce

The average employee tenure across industries is slightly longer than four years, but among certain high-demand job profiles, that timeframe drops to approximately 18 to 36 months. While this was once a sign of an unstable employee and had detrimental career implications, today, it’s the new norm. How should companies respond to this job-hopping phenomenon? What are the implications and what needs to change in order to harness the power of a transitory workforce?

Talent is investing only 1.5 to three years at your company before moving on. Why are they moving on? In most cases, they are offered more enticing opportunities, better pay and a chance for a better work-life fit. The idea of leaving to get a raise has morphed into a focus in improving your income, job responsibilities and overall career trajectory. People don’t climb the ladder in the same company anymore; they use multiple companies to build their career momentum.

What’s driving this change?

A few major factors have driven this change. One, the speed of company evolution has increased exponentially. Consider Square, Zynga and Pinterest – they all achieved a level of revenue of more than $1 billion in 2.5 to three years. With such high stakes, recruiting the best talent becomes a hyper-competitive business function where incredibly aggressive tactics are used to attract top talent. Candidates will naturally listen to enticing offers. This quickening of the business cycle has also sped up employees’ expectations related to how long they should stay at a job and maximize their potential. What used to take years now can take months in many companies. This has led to a supply and demand imbalance, where many companies are competing aggressively for fewer qualified candidates.

There has also been a shift in workforce psychology. Technology has trained us to have much shorter attention spans as well as an almost addictive expectation for continual change. Global job opportunities are as close as our smartphones, and there is an overall change in how people assign meaning to the concept of work. It used to be that people were loyal to an employer and generally felt their employment was a lifelong commitment. Today’s talent is loyal to their sense of self and to the power to actively build the lives they want.

These changes can feel intimidating to companies. Losing talent repetitively costs money. It also disrupts knowledge capital within companies. But there are upsides. The rate of innovation demands fresh insight, and the continual influx of new people serves this well. Joining and leaving teams repetitively creates agile people who are good at adapting to new situations and contributing their expertise.

How can companies leverage this?

First, accept that this is the new norm and it’s here to stay. Take a hard look at how this impacts your business. Then evaluate where your current HR mindset and processes support or detract your ability to attract and retain the talent you need. Your employee value proposition may need to be overhauled.

Figure out what you have to sell a candidate that matters to them right now. For many, this could come down to better pay and more flexibility. Once you’ve achieved a value proposition that talent will notice, look at how you can create ways to keep that momentum going. If you have talent that you don’t want to lose in three years (or less), how can you reshape what you offer so that you can compete with “the next best thing?”

It’s also critical not to undervalue the strength of relationships. People may leave jobs for more money and better opportunities, but they stay because they love their boss and their teammates. Pay close attention to the quality and personalities of the managers in your company.

From a procedural recruiting standpoint, move quickly and aggressively to secure talent. Top candidates are in demand, coming on and off the market quickly, almost always receiving multiple offers. If you waste time in your hiring process, you will lose them. In a competitive market, the quality of the opportunity and fit are very important, but no matter how fantastic your offer, you can’t play hard to get. Sell your opportunity and ability to give candidates what matters to them. Make this about how you have what they need to build this next chapter in their career story. If you do that, you’ll keep a continual flow of top talent that will power your company to high performance in a competitive market.

By defining and selling a winning employee value proposition, working hard to build an outstanding culture and building an efficient and aggressive recruiting process, you will attract and retain top talent, even in a fluid and highly competitive environment.

Greg Carr is a recruiting expert and EVP at Seven Step RPO.