What Factors Influence Our Propensity To Job Hop?

One of the more prominent trends of recent years is job hopping, and in many cases career hopping.  Stats have shown that people are moving jobs more frequently than in the past, and even switching careers with much higher frequency then previous generations.

For instance, research from staffing agency Robert Half found that some 64% of workers were keen on job hopping, with many doing so in order to learn new experiences. The trend can have significant implications for employers however, as it’s well established that new hires can take several months to get fully up to speed, and we are also in an environment whereby lifelong learning is a growing requirement, and frequent job hopping may deter employers from investing in the skills of their staff.

It is perhaps a trend that needs further exploration therefore so that we can better understand why people move jobs, and some of the factors that underpin our desire to switch.  New research from ETH Zurich and the University of East Anglia suggests that our age and education have a big influence on our propensity for change.

The research centered on the factors that underpin our propensity to move jobs, including things like the unemployment rate, the openness of the individual to new experiences, their age and level of education.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, each of these factors played a part, but age appeared to play the strongest part.  The research found that we were much more likely to change jobs and careers during our formative years.

Why we hop jobs

Whilst this finding does appear intuitive, it ran counter to the initial hypothesis of the researchers that openness to new experiences would be a dominant factor.  Instead, other factors were more influential.  For instance, high levels of education and a low unemployment rate in a society would contribute to moves between organizations, but largely irrelevant in determining moves to new occupations.

When moving to a new industry, education also played a key role, and was significantly more important than the general state of the labor market.

Suffice to say, this propensity to change careers regularly has implications not only for people as individuals but also for employers, as it will influence how HR departments can attract and retain the talent their organizations need to thrive.  The authors believe that their work will help employers better understand why people change careers, and to then respond accordingly.

Retaining talent

“Whether individuals make a career transition depends undoubtedly on a range of factors. Our findings have immediate practical implications by improving our understanding of opportunities and hindrances for different kinds of career mobility,” they say”

“Employees who aim to advance their careers by crossing organisational, industrial, or occupational boundaries may gain helpful insights about factors involved in these distinct types of mobility. For example, they might want to align the timing of their career advances with fluctuations in the labour market.”

They believe that their findings underline the importance of investing in career management programs for employees to show that they’re valued and help to retain them for as long as possible.  This investment could provide particularly strong results in a strong labor market where employees have numerous options for going elsewhere.

This kind of fertile environment most certainly exists for the highest skilled people in your organization, and as they appear to be the most likely to jump ship, the onus really is on employers to make working for them as attractive as possible, whilst also ensuring that if these people do hop to a new job, that the route back is as straightforward as possible.

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