Job hopping: Shifting mindsets

Job hopping is not the red flag that it once was for recruiters and the onus is on HR to prevent their best staff from seeking out greener pastures.

It’s a topic that is regularly discussed in professional forums and on networking sites such as LinkedIn. And it’s something that holds supreme relevance in today’s hyper-changing and complex world of work.

Job hopping, job shopping, or whatever moniker it has been ascribed, is now firmly in the HR spotlight in Asia. With the millenial generation in particular happy to switch full-time roles regularly and often, the job-hoppers of today are no longer considered outliers.

They now represent a significant structural change to the workforce in Asia-Pacific – and HR will not just need to accept this changed state of affairs, but work to take advantage of it.

A softening stance

This is happening.

Once deeply frowned upon by organisations, job hopping is no longer deemed as “career kamikaze” for individual employees.

With the working world now defined by transferable skillsets across different industries, and the often intense desire for employees to experience new cultures and working environments, job hopping is increasingly being viewed in a less myopic and judgmental light.

The advent of the “gig economy”, a buzzword for short-term projects, freelance and casual work, has also pushed HR disappointment at job hoppers to the backburner. Employees will often work on completing an assignment before moving on to the next available one, often with a completely new organisation.

While certain markets and organisations still cast a somewhat negative eye on job hopping, the realities of today’s global outlook means that proportion is decreasing all the time.


Quality, not longevity

Benjamin Roberts, Global Talent Acquisition and Mobility Leader of Publicis Communications, believes job hopping is only going to rise over the coming few years.

More importantly, he says companies will have to get used to it.

“A lot of people have skills that are very transferrable, and companies want the best talent,” says Roberts.

“As the world transforms digitally, we are all hiring from different places, and not from the usual competitors like the old days.”

In such a fast-moving environment, the question for talent acquisition heads becomes: do they hire the sharpest tool in the box who freely seeks greener pastures every year or two, or do they go after the candidate who, while not the most-skilled, has longer staying power?

Freddy Lee, Southeast Asia Managing Director of Jardine Technology Holdings, says his organisation is mindful not to miss out on exceptional candidates by automatically eliminating supposed job-hoppers from the equation.

“We believe that these candidates may well be looking for opportunities to accelerate their growth and advancement, or simply seeking better working conditions and environments. If candidates possess the right attitude, skills and potential, we seek to create the conditions for them to thrive and achieve,” he says.

Kenny Jin, Head of Talent Acquisition and HR Business Partner at REAPRA, a Southeast-Asian focused business capital provider, concurs.

“Our focus is on getting the best possible person on board,” he says.

“Things like longevity can be overlooked in favour of aspects like culture fit, capability, and mindset.”

Timing is also a key motivating factor.

David Cherry, Head of Asia-Pacific Talent Acquisition at FireEye, an intelligence-led security company, has hired many job hoppers across different industries and geographies over the course of his career.

“It has always come down to the role being hired for at the time,” he says. “For example, it might a ‘hard-to-fill’ position where the skill set is very niche.

“More often though, it would be when hiring for less experienced or more junior positions where the risk is lower.”

Increasingly, an employee’s frequency of job-hopping and the duration of their stay may not be a direct indication of that individual’s loyalty.

Organisations are now choosing to focus on the achievements and contributions of candidates, using these factors alone as the barometer of their capabilities.

Length of tenure, it seems, is becoming much less important as a metric.

Norman Nicholas Abdullah, Head of Talent Acquisition and Manpower Planning at RHB Banking Group in Malaysia, agrees. He says it makes more sense to hire a candidate who has made an impact elsewhere within six months of them joining that firm than to favour an individual who had been in a job for six years, but with nothing much to show for that service.

A shift in accountability

Rather than pointing accusatory fingers at employees who jump ship, the onus is now on HR to understand their staff pain points. They will need to rethink their talent management practices in light of today’s skills-driven and agile era.

It is imperative for organisations to understand the aspirations of their employees – be they professional or personal – and to then craft purpose-driven, meaningful, and flexible strategies that will spur staff to produce their best work and keep them engaged, hopefully for many more years to come.

Narendra Singh Chandel, Regional Head - Talent Acquisition, North India, at Tata Consultancy Services, says the global spate of job changes is a direct correlation of organisations’ failure to retain their talent.

“We are seeing an increasing trend which, in a way, is the collective failure of both employers and HR professionals to carve out the right retention strategies,” he says.

Nikhil Shahane, HR Director India at Technip, a global firm overseeing oil and gas projects, believes creating opportunities must form the bedrock of an organisation’s ability to retain its employees.

“The possibility of an individual to stay with the same organisation for a sustained period of time depends on their career progression so far, and on what they aspire to achieve,” he says.

As organisations around the globe battle to stay relevant and, ultimately, profitable in today’s disruptive, ultra-competitive business world, HR heads need to channel their energies towards equipping their employees with skills to themselves thrive in the complex landscape.

To blame departing employees for the organisation’s failure resonates with the saying, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”.

“I believe job hopping is sometimes unfairly and overly stigmatised,” says Jin.

“It is the company’s responsibility to retain their top talent. And if they can’t keep their employees happy, then someone else will.

“People will always gravitate to the best opportunity for themselves."

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