Who’s Job-Hopping Now?

Older workers are changing jobs almost as much as Millennials

By Dana Wilkie Jun 23, 2017
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​Maybe Millennials don't deserve to be the only generation labeled as "job hoppers."

These days, people between ages 55 to 65 are actually job hopping almost as much as their Millennial co-workers, according to a new survey.

The survey from Namely—HR Mythbusters 2017—found that the median tenure at a job for workers between ages 25 and 35 was 1.42 years; the median tenure for those between ages 35 and 55 was just under two years; and for those between ages 55 and 65, it was 2.53 years.

The survey, released June 20, relied on data from over 125,000 employees across the U.S. who were asked about topics such as vacation time and employee tenure.

"Careers are more fluid, and it has become more socially acceptable—if not expected—to move from job to job," said Matt Straz, founder and CEO of Namely, which offers HR software and services to midsize companies. "As more opportunities arise, this [older] generation is embracing the ability to move around in their careers. Particularly at high-growth companies, there is opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds to contribute their experience. It also makes sense that as new opportunities crop up, people later in their career may want to try something new that excites and challenges them, rather than stay put for the long haul."

What It Means for HR

The findings reveal that "HR teams are up against a trend of shortening tenures," the survey authors wrote. "For those that have focused primarily on retaining Millennial employees, it's time to broaden perspective. Companies should consider what retention incentives they can offer employees at all stages." 

For instance, flexible work options may appeal not just to Millennials, but to older workers.

"While [flexibility is] really an intergenerational perk that appeals to all age groups, flexibility carries even more appeal later in life—whether it's used to be a more-present parent, for doctors' visits or just to attend to important family commitments," he said.

For workers on the cusp of retirement, or for those who'd rather slow down instead of leave the workforce entirely, companies are increasingly keeping them on board in part time or advisory roles. Even if it means the person is only in the office two days a week, many companies find that it's worth maintaining the relationship and keeping the employee's expertise in-house, Straz said. 

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Employing Interns]

Employee Age and Tenure Chart

Keeping Workers Young and Old

There may be another good reason for all the job-hopping among young and older workers, said Rachel Ernst, head of employee success at Reflektive, a performance management technology company in San Francisco. It could be, she said, that today's employees leave workplaces so quickly because they lack opportunities to learn, to grow or to advance. 

"I have observed time and again [that] when managers say that the growth of their employees is important, they hold their best performers closely and are upset when an employee wants to move to a new group in the same company to broaden her or his knowledge," she said.  

And while many organizations preach about "lateral growth," she said, employees who express interest in jobs too different from their own can be told they don't have enough experience.

"Even when companies set up job rotations … [to] learn new skills, managers prefer hiring people who already have experience doing what the job requires. They want someone who can hit the ground running."  

Ernst has also watched many workers try—and fail—to navigate internal moves, in large part because they don't know how to go about it.

"Companies that dedicate a part of recruiting's role to be focused on internal movement will have a higher success rate in" retaining workers, she said.  "This strategy communicates to employees that internal movement is encouraged and also provides them with a person to go to, to help them understand how to move to other functions."

Does Success Lead to Turnover?

One workplace "myth," the survey authors wrote, is that startup companies that grow quickly tend to turn into stressful places, which leads to turnover.

One explanation for this myth, the survey authors wrote, might be the belief that employees at startups may feel the organization is unstable if it grows too fast, or may simply dislike working for a large organization.

The survey, however, found that for every additional 10 percent in head count growth, companies' turnover rates were an average of 1.6 percent lower than at companies that experienced less growth.

"There are definitely people … who would rather work in a more stable environment or for an earlier-stage company," Straz said. "When your company has just 10 employees, a single departure can feel like a significant loss. But as companies scale over time, the turnover rate steadies with the pace of growth. So while turnover may feel significant at high-growth companies, more often than not, the changes are not so drastic."

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