Job-hopping: How HR Can Harness the Power of a Transitory Workforce

The average employee tenure across industries is a bit over four years, but among certain high-demand job profiles, it’s 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 phenomena? What are the implications and what needs to change in order to harness the power of a transitory workforce?

Talent is investing only one-and-a-half to three years at your company before moving on. Let’s dissect this a bit. 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 got to $1B+ in two-and-a-half 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.  So an overall quickening of the pace of business has led to a supply and demand imbalance where many companies are competing aggressively for fewer qualified candidates.

We also have a shift in the 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 shift 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. This mentality doesn’t exist anymore. Today’s talent is loyal to their sense of Self and to the power to actively build the lives they want. Work is now one part of the overall goal of creating an optimum life. Your job and rewards you gain from it are stepping stones in your journey.

These changes feel intimidating to companies. Losing talent repetitively costs a ton of money. It also disrupts knowledge capital within companies. But there are upsides to it as well. 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. So, it’s not all negative. And, just like anything in life, the perspective you choose to have determines whether you experience this as a challenge or amazing opportunity. 

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. If you’re still selling stability, security, long-term benefits, even long-term professional development – these remain important, but they’re not that sexy to someone who’s going to be with your company for a maximum of three years.

Figure out what you have to sell a candidate that matters to them right now. For most, this has come down to better pay, opportunities to be part of something bigger than themselves, and more flexibility in making work fit into life. So, look at how you can be the hottest, most attractive employment brand by offering what candidates want and need now and during the next three years. Then, look at how you can create ways to keep that momentum going. Let’s say 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” that they’re going to hear about? This is not about boring development plans or simply putting people on new projects. You have to dig deeper. Part of why people leave is because they get bored and tired of the same old thing. And sometimes the “same old thing” are the people managing them. Shift talent around and hire and move managers.

Also look at the overall package you offer.  Obviously, it's going to cost you money to retain top talent beyond the three-year mark. If you can’t compete on increased salary, you’re going to lose them. But you will need to be careful that hiking salaries doesn’t drive away your customers. Your customers can’t be the ones to pay for the salary increase. You’ll have to find other ways to cut margins and improve efficiencies.

Don’t undervalue the strength of relationships, too. 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. I know of managers who build such rapport with their teams that when the manager moves to another company, his entire team follows. You should never overlook the power of culture in attracting and retaining top talent. 

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 sexy your offer, you can’t play hard to get. Sell your opportunity, sell your 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 fantastic 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. 

 

Check out the full article as it originally posted in HR Professional Canada here

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