It’s Your Fault That Millennials Are Job Hoppers; What Are You Going to Do About It?

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DuckThe millennials have a reputation for being job hoppers (though it’s worth noting that some sources challenge the veracity of said reputation), and RecruitiFi’s recent “Millennial Outlook Survey” adds some statistical confirmation to this stereotype: even though 83 percent of the millennials survey by RecruitiFi said they were aware that job hopping may negatively affect their careers, 86 percent said they would have no qualms about job hopping in order to pursue their “professional or personal passions.”

Is this because the millennials are sniveling, entitled brats, always looking out for their own interests, consequences be damned?

Not exactly, says Brin McCagg, RecuitiFi’s founder and CEO.

“The millennials are just adapting to a newer, more agile economy,” McCagg says. “In the old days, you got a job at a big company, and you stayed their for your whole career, basically. You got a nice retirement package and the gold watch and all that.”

Today’s employers, on the other hand, are far less loyal to their employees than the companies of yore. It makes sense, then, for today’s employees to be job hoppers: if their employers aren’t loyal to them, why should they be loyal to their employers?

“The millennials are responding to the reality on the ground,” McCagg says.

McCagg’s sentiments echo those of Wharton management professor Adam Cobb, who has argued that “when people say that employees have no loyalty to their firms, you get into a chicken-and-egg kind of argument. Imagine a different world where firms took care of their employees, and loyalty was reciprocal. Would employees be job hopping to the extent they are now?”

Cobb traces the lack of employer loyalty back to the ’80s, when “you started to see healthy firms laying off workers, mainly for shareholder value … [F]irms would say, ‘We are doing this in the long-term interest of our shareholders’ … You would also see cuts in employee benefits — 401(k)s instead of defined benefit pensions, and health care costs being pushed on to employees. The trend was toward having the risks be borne by workers instead of firms. If I’m an employee, that’s a signal to me that I’m not going to let firms control my career.”

McCagg also notes that the mutual disloyalty is exacerbated by the rise of the gig economy.

“More companies look for employees on a shorter-term project basis now,” he explains.

Two other important factors in the millennial willingness to job hop, McCagg says, are the average worker’s increased mobility and increased access to information.

“The visibility of competing jobs – the visibility of competing careers – the agility of people to move geographically and economically: I think that has made the threat of people leaving higher than it used to be,” he says.

‘Companies Need to Work on Being Great Employers and Attracting and Retaining Great Talent’

As much as employers may have sparked the job-hopping trend through their own actions — and as much as they may be perpetuating it through the gig economy — McCagg notes that increased job hopping isn’t exactly a positive thing for every company.

“Turnover definitely is negative for companies, especially when it’s unexpected or undesired,” McCagg says.

BurnoutRecruitiFi’s “Millennial Outlook Survey” found that 45 percent of surveyed employers felt that job-hopping has negatively impacted their companies. Such negative impacts include “lowered employee morale in the office” (34 percent) and the notice of clients and customers (22 percent).

We can also see the negative impacts of job hopping — as far as employers are concerned, that is — in the increasingly ferocious war for talent, which may be caused in part by employer disloyalty. Companies have to fight tooth and nail to attract and retain the best talent because they know that talent is free — and willing — to go elsewhere if their employers are not meeting their expectations. Talent is willing to go elsewhere because, as Cobb says, they’ve learned not to tie themselves to the firms they work for; they realize these firms could turn on them at any time. It’s a vicious cycle, in a way.

What’s an employer to do, then? (Provided we’re talking about an employer that cares about retaining its talent; plenty of employers don’t care, and we’re not going to bother trying to convince them to. We’ll just let them see how well that plays out for themselves.)

“Companies need to work on being great companies and attracting and retaining great talent,” McCagg says. “[They] need to do a really good job in this day and age of building a very strong corporate culture and attracting people who fit in and who to stay for as long as they possibly can.”

This work, according to McCagg, begins with the recruiting process itself.

That Irreplaceable Human Element

To win the war for talent, companies have spent tremendous amounts of money on technology and big data solutions. These can be valuable tools, McCagg says, “but at the end of the day, there’s no substitute for a recruiter calling you up … and getting you interested in a job.”

Human-to-human connections between recruiters and candidates are critical, according to McCagg, because that’s how companies can find high-level candidates and make them aware of job opportunities they may not have otherwise been interested in.

“You need to have a conversation with the person, to learn whether or not they are interested in the job, whether or not they want to do it, and all the nuances behind that,” McCagg says.

Do these sorts of conversations help with retention?

“I think time will tell, but my strong bet is it will,” McCagg says. “Quality hires tend to stay longer. The biggest benefit to hiring well is you have an employee who stays with you and is very productive for a long period of time.”

McCagg believes that human-touch recruiting is the key to helping employers hire well. Not only do a recruiter’s efforts in the trenches, so to speak, help to surface high-level candidates who may have otherwise paid no attention to a given job opportunity, but also, a recruiting process based on human interaction sets a very different tone from the start.

Candidates pulled in through Walkingjob boards or similarly impersonal sources often feel as if they are applying to work for faceless megaliths, and should they land a job at one of these megaliths, this feeling carries over. They’re disconnected and uninvested from the start.

Meanwhile, candidates pulled in through personal interaction with recruiters feel a warmth from their prospective employer, a human interest which they are encouraged to reciprocate. From the very beginning, candidates receive a clear and positive message from the employer : You matter. We’re interested in having you, specifically, on board. 

Of course, an awesome and human-driven recruiting experience won’t be enough on its own to keep a candidate around. No one stays at a company for years because “the recruiter was so nice!”

But, as McCagg mentions, high-quality hires tend to stick around longer. As long as employers hold up their end of the bargain and follow through on the initial humanity of the recruiting process, there’s a good chance their hires will stay on board for a while.

“The human element [in recruiting] helps make a better match,” McCagg says. “A better match results in a better hire.”

Read more in Retention

Matthew Kosinski is the former managing editor of