Photo of Jim StedtJob-Hopping:
Wave Of The Future?

by Jim Stedt

A few years ago, a market research company predicted high-tech professionals would stay on the job for an average of only 28 months.  That prediction might have sounded extreme at the time, but today it seems to be coming true.

Employers need to know why employees are job-hopping.  Is it the wave of the future or a cop out?

One reason: compression.  Recently, some jobs have seen salary increases of 20 percent to 40 percent due to employee shortages.  Someone staying in the same job might see only a 3 percent to 5 percent increase each year.  When recruiters approach them offering high salaries, they often make a move.

Financial windfall opportunities at startups are another reason to leave a stable company.  In today's market, most professionals think they can gamble on a startup.  If it doesn't work out, they can easily find a stable position elsewhere.

The primary reason for job-hopping is lack of technical challenges.  Technical professionals get bored if they are not constantly challenged and learning.  Turnover often happens after a project is finished — especially if another challenge isn't in the wings.  Designers do a lot of things well, but most of them can't wait around and do nothing.  Companies with continuous formal training programs will keep key players longer.

The second-most-quoted reason for job-hopping is management interface.  High-tech staff will leave if they are not treated with respect.  They leave when tools or the working environment is poor, or when management repeatedly changes its mind, cannot make decisions or ignores staff requests.

Employees leave for other reasons, too.  They didn't get the office or project they wanted, or they think they're being picked on.  I know designers who left jobs because they knew the product would never work and were too embarrassed to confront management.  Some become prima donnas and will leave if they don't always get their way.  Thankfully, they are in the minority.

Of course, employees often have legitimate reasons for job-hopping: layoffs, company closings or mergers, a spouse needing to move, divorce, family problems or even natural disasters.

Some employees today have little corporate loyalty, so leaving is not as traumatic as it was 10 years ago.  Management must establish ongoing communications to know what technical staffers are thinking, what they want and how to motivate them.

High-tech companies must approach job-hopping like any other business problem.  It must be accepted and analyzed, and an ongoing plan must be established to manage it.  Nobody wants to have a lot of job-hopping, and nobody wants to have to conduct continual recruiting.

Talk to the author  -  Jim Stedt

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