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Do Job Hoppers Make the Best Employees?

Is she checking the want ads again?

[tweetmeme]I was rather shocked the other day to receive my daily BNET newsletter carrying an article by Penelope Trunk entitled “Why Job Hoppers Make the Best Employees.”  As of this writing the article had generated 127 comments ranging from huzzas to hisses.  I didn’t comment but belong to the latter category.  Here are her five points, which she describes in more detail in her article

  1. Job hoppers have more intellectually rewarding careers
  2. Job hoppers have more stable careers
  3. Job hoppers are higher performers
  4. Job hoppers are more loyal
  5. Job hoppers are more emotionally mature

To summarize her thesis, because they change jobs so frequently, job hoppers are challenged to a new learning curve at each company where they work and it makes her certain that job hoppers “know more.”  People who work for lots of companies have a larger network than people who stay in one place for long periods of time, which is why she’s convinced that “job-hopping creates stability.”  Are you getting the message, or are your eyebrows beginning to arch?

According to Ms. Trunk,  “job hoppers are always looking to do really well at work, if for no other reason than it helps them get their next job.”  In other words it looks good on their resume. This seems like a new high (low?) in cynical thinking.   Also, she states, “job hoppers want to bond with their co-workers so they can all help each other get jobs later on.”  This is after her point number 4, that job hoppers are more loyal.  Huh?

And, finally, job hoppers are more emotionally mature, because they know when to quit – even if it’s after only two weeks in a job they hate.  OK, a little bit of truth to that, the part about quitting as soon as you know you’re a square peg in a round hole.

Not Everyone Likes Job Hopping

But I’ve re-read the article a couple of more times and no where do I see anything that says many people don’t like job hopping. They don’t job hop over any burning desire to leave their companies for new and exciting adventures.  They leave because they were fired or laid off.  I wonder if she spoke to any people on the unemployment lines in her town to see how happy they were to be moving on to their next company – if they ever find a job.

Job-hopping can be emotionally wrenching.  Even if you leave your former employer voluntarily, you can’t be sure the next job will be stimulating, energizing and filled with learning opportunities.  It could just be another dud.  Then what; start the search all over again?  Think this is easy?

And who are the people hiring these go-getters who can’t wait to jump to their next jobs?  Why, they are the grey beards, the “lifers” who have risen to positions of authority where they get to say who gets hired and who gets fired.  And, as she points out, a lot of them are old guard and are suspicious of someone who’s had five jobs in five years.

Many companies engage their employees

The idea that you can become stale at a company after two years isn’t a universal truth.  Many companies purposely rotate their employees through different departments to enhance their learning and to keep them engaged and energized about the company.  They are the company’s future.  My brother was a 34-year “lifer” at the company he retired from and he loved every minute he was there.  He rose through the ranks from junior accountant to CFO.  What’s so bad about that?   Why is it laughable to have a retirement party for someone and give him a gold watch?

I’m a person who has made a lot of moves, not all entirely because I wanted to.  I’m in an industry – marketing and communications – that is known for volatility.  I learned how to move on, but the idea that I was planning my escape the minute I sat down at my new desk never occurred to me.  For me, at least, it wasn’t possible to give everything I had to my company if my eye was always on the want ads.

Here is my advice to people starting out:  delete the words “job hopper” from your vocabulary.  It’s toxic to most employers.  Sure, have a plan for your career, but be prepared for course corrections.  Have you noticed how everything seems to change by the minute?  Remember My Space?  Or Gateway computers?  Or Netscape?  They were the rage for about five minutes and faded.  Be happy if you’re in a company that recognizes and rewards you and is willing to invest in your future there.  You’ll have plenty of opportunity for learning and bonding and advancement right where you are.

Staying someplace for 20 years means you’ll be calling the shots one day.

Does Money Ensure Employee Engagement?

Money is not the primary motivator of employee engagement, according to a recent study sponsored by the U.K. government.  David McLeod, one of the co-authors, states that money may be what attracts someone to a company. But once s/he is there, more important is –

• How is the company treating me?
• Am I fully valued?
• Do I know where the organization is going?
• Now that I’m here, is compensation awarded fairly?
• Are my managers listening to me?
• Is someone going to coach me so I can do a better job?

Common sense, right? But, as my friend Andrea Nierenberg often says in her training sessions, “what’s common sense isn’t often common practice.” The common thread binding employee engagement efforts is communication – are the CEO and his managers communicating with employees on a regular basis? Employees can’t know where the company is going unless someone tells them. They can’t know they are valued unless someone gives them an occasional “attaboy” by way of encouragement.

What impresses me is that the government actually felt the topic was so important for the success of U.K. businesses, that it commissioned a study to learn exactly what engages employees. If you want to look for yourself, the title of the study is called, “Engaging for Success: enhancing performance through employee engagement.” Scroll to the bottom of the page when you get to the site for the PDF.  I’ll warn you that it is 157 pages long, but it is there for the reading.

Also included in this post is an interview BNET conducted with David McLeod in which he discusses the survey findings. Very interesting.