What Businesses Can Learn From Job Hoppers
Top talent has developed a habit of quitting and hopping jobs for greener pastures, especially in the post-pandemic labour crisis. What can organizations learn from this growing trend and what steps should they take to become "employers of choice" who can attract - and retain - the talent they need?
In case you hadn’t noticed, people are quitting their jobs in unprecedented numbers.
In April, the United States Bureau of Labour Statistics reported four million Americans quit their jobs, the highest monthly number since 2000 when this metric has first gathered. That was nearly three times the number of layoffs (1.4 million), which are at an all-time low.
And it’s not just the U.S. that’s being affected. Surveys and polls from around the world show that talent at all levels and skill levels is itching for a change. Although some of this movement was present before the pandemic – particularly among Millennials, who have had more career wanderlust than older generations – the pandemic and its impact on global labour markets has certainly amplified the trend.
Pandemic job hopping is all the rage
If nothing else, the pandemic has certainly demonstrated that non-traditional working arrangements can work with the right support from an employer.
No one is quite sure what a post-pandemic working world will look like, but for many employees, the pandemic has done a lot to allow the flexible-working-arrangement genie out of its bottle.
A May 2021 global survey from business consulting firm EY (formerly Ernst & Young) showed that more than half of all the employees were willing to quit their jobs to get greater flexibility in how and where they work. A similar study from Microsoft found 41 per cent of surveyed workers were thinking about quitting their jobs to ensure they get a flexible working arrangement.
Similar results have been found in the UK; another May 2021 survey from HR software firm Personio found that 38 per cent of workers in the UK and Ireland are looking to change jobs in the next year as economies rebound.
Okay, so more people are quitting in search of a better job. But other than greater flexibility, what are they searching for?
It’s not just about the money
After two decades where even advanced education credentials did not translate necessarily into higher starting pay, there is no doubt that job hoppers are looking for opportunities to earn more. However, given the current context, more money is not really the catalyst here.
Insurance company Prudential’s Pulse of the American Worker Survey found that more than 80 per cent of respondents who indicated they were looking for a new job cited a lack of career advancement opportunities as a major motivation.
It’s important to remember, as well, the factors that drove people to quit jobs before the pandemic struck.
Gallup, one of the world’s largest market research and polling companies, has for some years now found that a gross majority of people who leave their jobs do so to escape a bad boss.
There are important insights to be found as well from looking at the major reasons why people stay. A 2018 study of Facebook employees, published in the Harvard Business Review, revealed that while “bad boss” is a frequently cited cause of voluntary separations, it was not a trigger for many employees who were provided with a range of other benefits and opportunities through work.
The analysis found that employees who stayed with Facebook were more likely to describe their jobs as enjoyable and exciting, were in jobs where they could make use of their strengths, and were given opportunities by the company to grow their careers.
This is consistent with other data that shows seven out of 10 workers globally rate “professional or career growth and development” as their number one issue for creating job satisfaction. It’s even more important for younger generations; nearly nine in 10 Millennials prioritize career growth and development as their number one satisfaction issue.
An opportunity, and a risk
After suffering through a chronic pre-pandemic shortage of skilled labour, the prospect of a new cohort of motivated job hoppers may seem like an opportunity for organizations to revamp and upgrade their talent.
However, this is a labour force trend that cuts both ways.
If you are not taking steps to become an employer of choice, you are not only ripe to lose top talent, but you’ll have a horrible time attracting top talent.
What can you do as a first step towards creating a culture that both retains and attracts the best and brightest? Before you can fix specific things, you need to re-think your entire organizational context and adopt what we in the HR profession would call a “coaching mindset.”
Coaching mindset is the foundation for all employers of choice
Although it can mean slightly different things to different people, coaching mindset describes an entirely different approach to talent management. One where the lines of communication between employee and manager are totally open and transparent, where managers frequently discuss job satisfaction with their charges, and where everyone is given an opportunity to grow and learn.
How can an organization acquire a coaching mindset and in so doing, unlock the things that top talent values the most in a job? Certainly, offering coaching to leaders at all levels – from the C-Suite to the frontline – is a big part of it. When leaders are coached, they begin to absorb the coaching mindset and apply it to the conversations they are having with the people they are leading.
Some organizations also train some of their managers to be certified coaches, and then rely on those people to provide guidance to both manager and employee on how to carry out meaningful career conversations.
The value of meaningful conversations about career aspirations and job performance cannot be understated. Unfortunately, far too few organizations are engaging with their employees, particularly their younger employees, in this fashion.
Gallup reported in 2020 that only 17 per cent of millennial employees – the cohort most likely to job hop – believe they are getting meaningful feedback on their career or performance. Most of the people in this demographic want coaching conversations with their managers so that they can plot out the future of their careers.
It can be done, with a little help from your (coaching) friends
Investments in coaching can pay off in so many different wants in this, the age of the job hopper. It can not only help retain top talent, but serve as an important incentive when recruiting people who have quit unsatisfying jobs with other organizations.
All it takes is an open mind, and the willingness to have that meaningful conversation.
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