U.S. Workers Want 5+ Years Before Jumping Ship

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Plan on changing jobs/employers every three years for the rest of your life.

If you think that message from a recent Fast Company article was meant for Millennial workers only, think again. “There are a lot of arguments for jumping ship every few years,” the article notes. For starters, workers who remain with an employer more than two years are said to get paid 50% less. And people who switch jobs frequently build professional skills faster due to the continual learning curve they face.

Job hopping holds benefits for employers as well, the article asserts, including improved performance and greater loyalty. The reason? It’s believed that short-timers care more about making a good impression during the brief period they’ll stay with each employer.

To be fair, Fast Company’s guidance on changing jobs every three years isn’t all that radical. The Bureau of Labor reports the average U.S. employee stays at a job only about 4.5 years anyway.

But there is another side to this coin …

A large number of American workers want “a long-term relationship” with their employers, not three-year stints, according to recent analysis by Korn Ferry’s Hay Group.

Not a Lifetime Commitment But …

The Hay Group surveyed 1.3 million U.S. workers from 139 companies and 15 industries. One of the questions it asked was, “Given your choice, how long would you plan to continue working for a company?” Sixty-four percent of workers answered “more than 5 years.” Just 18% answered two years or less. Interestingly, the two industries with the lowest response percentages were consumer services and communications—but even their responses were 51% and 54% respectively.

So it’s fair to say the majority of America’s workers aren’t exactly thrilled by the notion of job/employer hopping every three years. It’s equally fair to say that quite a few employers see a downside as well: losing their best people to competitors.

The new 2016 SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey of nearly 800 HR leaders shows that 46% cite employee retention as a top workforce management challenge. Other research has ranked the retention challenge even higher.

Whatever figure you buy into, Sabrina Son, managing editor of the TINYpulse blog, makes a compelling case for keeping top performers from jumping ship too frequently. In her post, The Importance of Employee Retention, Explained 8 Ways, Son writes, “Great businesses understand the importance of keeping their employees for a long time. In doing so, they don’t have to regularly spend the time and money necessary to replace employees—which could devastate their bottom lines.”

Among the eight reasons Son offers in favor of retention are: You Can’t Build a Business Without Consistency; You Lose Talent and Ideas; Constantly Training New Employees Is a Waste of Resources; and Your Competitors Could Benefit Directly.

If retaining your best people beyond a couple of years is something you care about, consider the insights offered by six HR executives in the Forbes piece, “Six Strategies You Can Use To Improve Employee Retention.” One of these insights—to be transparent—comes from Sarah O’Neill, HR Director at Digital Trends. While leaders often fear transparency, O’Neill believes it can significantly raise retention and employee loyalty when done correctly. “Be transparent about how your company is succeeding,” she says, “provide clarity on what can be improved, recognize who had a direct impact and offer direct data to support the claims. Leaders who speak to employees on these topics can secure a tenured workforce.”

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