Should employers steer clear of frequent job hoppers?

The reasons for frequent job change must be understood and analysed. Besides, frequent job hoppers may come with a distinct set of advantages

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There was a time when it was common practice for people to spend their entire careers at the same organisation. Today, a constantly- changing market and work environment has necessitated learning new skills, making agility and adaptability intrinsic to career management. Studies indicate that millennials are especially prone to changing jobs, with a research showing that 70 per cent quit their jobs within two years. However, has the old collective employer scepticism towards frequent job hoppers also undergone a transformation?

Burgeoning trend

Sai Suryanarayana M, chief people officer, Fincare Small Finance Bank, opines that job hopping is on the rise today. “A majority of millennials believe that changing jobs can actually benefit their career. From quitting for higher education or choosing an altogether new career path, or relocating to a different city – there are many reasons behind people leaving a company,” he notes.

Explaining a growing acceptance of the practice, Suryanarayana points to the shifting templates of employee association with an organisation and availability of a spectrum of choices, such as full-time vs part-time, onsite vs remote, permanent vs contractual. “These have paved the way for new possibilities; making frequent job switches less of a career stigma”.

“There is a story and context behind every decision. If the context is understandable and reasons authentic, such people should be treated like any other job applicant”

Rajeev Singh, CHRO, Solara Active Pharma

Referring to the ubiquity of the trend, Rajeev Singh, CHRO, Solara Active Pharma, says that there are namely two points in an individual’s career path at which job hopping takes place. “Frequent job changes happen either in the first 10 years of an employee’s career, or after they have had a long spell at one company, following which they wish to move on,” he points out. “Candidates cannot be said to be bad or worthless simply because they have changed jobs frequently,” states Singh firmly.

Not always appreciated

Several experts describe today’s labour market as more ‘candidate-driven’, that is, one in which employees hold more power than employers. However, does this ever-deepening trend suggest that candidates always have the upper hand when they switch jobs? Not really, it seems.

“The confidence and trust level with regard to frequent job hoppers is low to begin with,” opines Suryanarayana. “Loyalty to any organisation continues to matter and employers tend to hire people who seem willing to invest their time in the company’s growth. If a candidate has a record of leaving jobs too frequently, it could be read as a sign of instability and non-adaptability”.

Suryanarayana notes that switching jobs often may make one appear flighty or prone to getting bored easily and consequently resigning and taking off. “Companies do not really need such employees, especially when they have to invest resources in training them,” he warns. At the same time, he advises organisations not to generalise. “Companies need to be cognizant of specific job roles and their demands, segregating the ones that require higher stability from those which do not,” he counsels.

Puneet Khurana, group HR head, Policybazaar and Paisabazaar, offers a different perspective. Shifting the focus to the damage suffered by employees on account of frequent job switches, he opines, “People, who job-hop for money rather than for the sake of exploring their passions, would end up dissatisfied in any organisation”.

“Switching jobs can be favourable when the intent is to upgrade one’s responsibilities and arrive at a higher designation”

Puneet Khurana, group HR head, Policybazaar and Paisabazaar

“Those who feel they’re underpaid as per the market standard, should sit down and have a word with their managers,” suggests Khurana, adding that the employees should candidly articulate their concerns, including what problems they need to solve and skills they need to learn in order to earn more.

Moreover, Khurana cautions, continuous job hoping could seriously hamper an employee’s learning process. “They are unlikely to demonstrate a track record of commendable outcomes sustained throughout their professional trajectory. This may lower their chances of getting hired by an organisation of their choice”.

Advantages aplenty

According to Suryanarayana, normalising frequent job hopping has caused companies to face a curious dilemma: that of not investing in training and enduring under-performance on the one hand, or investing substantially in training only to lose those employees to a higher bidder in the market, on the other.

Nonetheless, he details several vital advantages for companies in hiring frequent job switchers. “Job hoppers are like harvesters of information. While they skip from job to job, they typically pick up valuable transferrable skills along the way. Such skills can easily benefit a business – especially data and tech-related fungible skills,” he says.

“Besides, such candidates oftentimes offer fresh methods of problem solving, adding a new dimension to operations and plugging gaps. Last but not least, hiring a job hopper who has worked at multiple corporations potentially comes with a lot of networking opportunities,” observes Suryanarayana, elucidating how such an employee’s contacts – former clients and colleagues among others – may come in handy for an organisation.

Interestingly, Khurana puts the merits of job hopping in context, noting that the practice may be good for one’s profession when it is prompted by a will to acquire skillsets that are valued in the industry. “Switching jobs can be favourable when the intent is to upgrade one’s responsibilities and arrive at a higher designation,” he proposes, alluding to the advantages both a company and employee could enjoy in such a situation.

“The confidence and trust level with regard to frequent job hoppers is low”

Sai Suryanarayana M, chief people officer, Fincare Small Finance Bank

Singh offers a nuanced take on the subject, emphasising how a hiring manager should attempt to understand and analyse the reasons for switching. “It is important to understand the trigger for change. Perhaps someone was unable to make the right judgment about the company or role at that point of time, or circumstances at the organisation evolved in a way that made staying on difficult,” he opines. “Even personal reasons may have come into play, prompting a person to quit”.

Pertinently, Singh rules out turning down frequent job hoppers solely on the basis of their record, assuming that such behaviour signals instability and irresponsibility. “Hiring mistakes are common and happen anyway – regardless of whether or not the candidate is someone who has been switching jobs frequently,” he stresses. “No hiring manager ever advertises a job specifying that job hoppers need not apply!”

“There is a story and context behind every decision,” Singh adds. “If the context is understandable and reasons authentic, such people should be treated like any other job applicant – there should be no bias,” he suggests. He brings attention to a multitude of other factors that should help shape an organisation’s decision to hire or not hire a candidate – the right skills and willingness to relocate to a different city, for instance.

Dismissing the ‘cookie-cutter approach’ as one that no longer works – especially when it comes to HR practices – Suryanarayana hints at the need for organisations to stop viewing frequent job changers through a uniform lens. “One must follow the mantra of ‘different strokes for different folks’ today,” concludes Suryanarayana.

1 COMMENT

  1. Not necessarily. Depends on reason for change, contributions made in different organizations, value-addition initiatives and the like. Circulation of talent is always welcome. It’s a win – win situation.
    But caution needs to be exercised in cases where people tend to change within very brief period. Moreso particularly the HR professionals hopping jobs very frequently who preach and motivate others to stay on for longer periods would be deemed hypocritical.
    So, there is no one norm or rule to conclude and come to judgement which is right or wrong.

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