Employee Retention

Job-Hopping Is on the Rise -- But That Doesn't Have to Be a Bad Thing

Too many of your millennials jumping ship? Learn to tap into their skills while you still have them.
Job-Hopping Is on the Rise -- But That Doesn't Have to Be a Bad Thing
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For years, employers have been fighting against job-hopping, and looking for ways to retain talent for the long haul. Even so, employees continue to jump from one job to the next.

Related: 7 Strategic Ways to Increase Employee Retention While Reducing Costs

In fact, the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that between ages 18 and 28, millennials held an average of 7.2 jobs. In comparison, baby boomers held an average of 11.9 jobs from age 18 to age 50.

In other words, it took millennials a third of the time to go through almost the same number of jobs as their parents' generation. And as these young people age, it’s doubtful they’ll give up their job-hopping ways.

In response, says Aaron Harvey, founding partner and executive creative director of the New York-based digital agency Ready Set Rocket, leaders need to switch perspectives. “While you're investing in employees' goals, you must also accept that you are further building their capabilities and credentials,” Harvey told me by email. “This increases the likelihood that they may entertain a title jump to a competitor.”

In short, instead of trying so hard to retain job-hoppers, find ways to make the most of their time with your organization.

Get the new guy (or gal) up to speed quickly.

If an employee is going to be with an organization for only a few years, he or she needs to hit the ground running as soon as possible. This means that a company should have the best and most effective onboarding process.

Related: Breathe in, Breathe out. Then, Improve Your Talent Retention by Thinking: Air Quality

Job-hoppers typically have a wide range of work experience and skills. So chances are, there are some aspects of your training they already know. Instead of making all new hires go through a complete onboarding course, focus on the gaps in their knowledge.

Koreen Pagano, product management director for Ontario, Canada-based integrated learning platform D2L, suggests having a curated training system. “Collect content in a central library, ensuring staff can access that library and other educational tools on any device,” she said. “Then, track progress so you can personalize and make better decisions about training and development.”

Conduct skills tests that allow new employees to opt out of certain parts of the onboarding process. For instance, if an individual already has experience with a software program the company uses, there’s no point in wasting time on retraining.

Create a "lily pad."

The phrase “job-hopping” naturally makes us think of frogs. That is why Minneapolis-based eco-smart irrigation company Conserva Irrigation developed a “lily pad” approach for its job-hoppers.

Many of the organization’s employees are seasonal or transient. Instead of trying to fight that trend, the company’s founder, Russ Jundt, found a different way of engaging his team. “We needed to be intentional about creating an environment in which they would want to call home -- a comfortable lily pad,” he said in an email.

The company focuses on employees’ career plans and looks for ways to help them make their next move. It also also offers custom development opportunities -- even if that increases the chance that the employee eventually leaves for another company.

Jundt doesn’t see a waste of resources here, but rather a way to earn employees’ dedication. They might not be with the company for long, but they'll produce better work while they're there.

Take a similar approach by discussing employees’ goals with them as soon as possible. Let them know what tracks for development are available. But also discuss any outside learning opportunities they can participate in while working at the organization.

Let employees create "ripples."

Some employees are job-hoppers simply because of their skill level. For instance, in the tech industry, great coders are in high demand and may be poached at any moment. This is why Joe McCann, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based tech company NodeSource, focuses on empowering employees to create "ripples."

The way McCann explains this phenomenon is that should an employee find a better way to perform a task, that process should be documented and shared. If the employee has a particular skill, he or she should be encouraged to teach co-workers.

“When that person leaves, it hurts for a bit, but by then the other members of the team possess enough of those skills that we come back stronger,” McCann said by email.

From the moment an employee starts working for your organization, track what makes him or her special. Then look for opportunities to have that expertise positively impact everyone else. For example, if one employee has more experience with a new software, make him or her the go-to person for any questions. Just be sure to let that employee know how that knowledge and effort is helping the team.

Tap into that prize employee's ideas.

Employees who have worked at multiple companies in a short span of time have likely seen a range of ideas and processes. They know what’s working for other organizations and what has led them down the road to failure.

“Capitalize on employees who are job-hoppers by using their new ideas,” Idalia Dillard, director of HR and operations at Orlando-based public relations firm Uproar PR, told me. “Because they’ve worked at a variety of companies, they may bring fresh ideas and perspectives your company hasn’t thought of before.”

Regularly ask job-hoppers for their suggestions. But also be sure to collect feedback during exit interviews. Instead of focusing on why someone is leaving (SPOILER ALERT: It’s because he or she is a job-hopper), ask what this person noticed about the organization.

Related: 4 Ways Employee Incentives Can Drive Engagement and Retention

How do certain things differ from other companies? Which processes or resources are outdated? Having this information will help you as a leader make future informed, positive changes.

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