A few months back a Reddit Thread had this headline: Workplace Loyalty is Declining: 69% of Employees Say Looking for New Opportunities is Part of their ‘Regular Routine’ which in turns links to this which links you to a Forbes article about job hopping which takes it’s data from a FastCompany article on “the four-year career” and a “survey of 1,189 employees and 150 managers” called Multiple Generations at Work.
Needless to say…it’s sometime difficult to track down the precise sources for data that people keep repeating is true.
Anyways, after all of that the”Multiple Generations” survey doesn’t actually tells us how they got their findings or what methods they specifically used which is disappointing. But at the risk of going not far enough down the rabbit hole I’ll just take some of this at face-value for now. If you want to dig deeper than I did and question these statistics, I encourage you to do so.
One of the most useful things I found during my rabbit hole-esque adventure was via the second link I mentioned. It, in turn contains a link to a blog post on the declining employee causality and wisely questions assumptions from the get go in one part of the blog:
The Loyalty Research Center, an Indianapolis-based consultant that focuses on customer and employee loyalty issues, defines loyalty in part as “employees being committed to the success of the organization and believing that working for this organization is their best option….. [Loyal employees] do not actively search for alternative employment and are not responsive to offers.” Cappelli says that “employee loyalty” is a “practitioner term. The closest analogy in research is with the concept of commitment, [the idea] that employees are looking after the interests of their employer.”
I like the definition quite a bit but the blog post later on admits problems:
Cobb also acknowledges the difficulty in coming up with a definitive loyalty measure. “Often the survey questions related to this are something like: ‘Do you intend to look for another job in 12 months?’ I could be looking for a job for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with displeasure with the company,” he says. “I could be considering going to graduate school or perhaps I want to live closer to my elderly parents. So these kinds of measurements are fuzzy. They are not actually measuring loyalty. They are measuring what you hope is related to loyalty.”
From the start then it seems hard to measure what “workplace loyalty” even looks like. Because, for instance, you could have a worker totally invested in their job, the company and the culture that it has but maybe you still have to move in the next ten months or so. Would that make the worker disloyal? It’s hard to see loyalty as this thing that only depends on how long you stayed.
That doesn’t mean, however, that it can’t be a useful general indicator. If you looked at my resume (please don’t) you’ll notice that I’ve never held a job down for more than half of a year. And often in those cases it was because I had to move from where I was. But I was also not very loyal to the given company in most cases and would’ve left if I had somehow found a better gig. So in that situation it seems pretty easy to say I didn’t have much loyalty. Hell, I’d tell you I didn’t have much loyalty. So that’s me counted anyhow.
What about the rest of people? What does “job hopping” even look like?
The article I mentioned before about four-year careers has a few examples:
Adam Hasler, 282006 Takes over Modern Times, a D.C. coffeehouse; lives on “cookies and beer”2009 Leaves the business; learns programming and electronics and writes case studies for international-development journal2010 Interns at interactive media-arts lab in Buenos Aires2011 Applies to MIT Media Lab’s Center for Civic Media, in Cambridge; waits tables
Stacy Brown-Philpot, 36
1997 First job: Pricewaterhouse-Coopers1999 Second job: Goldman Sachs2000 Enters Stanford MBA program; offers finance skills to software startups to learn the tech biz2003 Joins Google in sales finance; segues into sales and operations2009 Volunteers to head Google’s online sales and operations in India
Job hopping is then pretty much what it sounds like: People aren’t getting jobs to have a career.
Instead, they’re getting jobs to find meaning and value in their life. Of course, unlike Forbes and the business related sites I am much less optimistic about people finding that so long as they keep participating in big corporations.
A Wharton management professor named Adam Cobb (referenced earlier as just Cobb in a quote) surprisingly also grasped this:
Wharton management professor Adam Cobb sees another reason for what is clearly an evolving relationship. “When you are talking about loyalty in the workplace, you have to think about it as a reciprocal exchange,” says Cobb. “My loyalty to the firm is contingent on my firm’s loyalty to me. But there is one party in that exchange which has tremendously more power, and that is the firm.”
The whole power dynamic between worker and the boss is rife with abuse from one party to another and this is especially because bosses are able to privatize profits and subsidizes losses in the form of government subsidies. Examples of these sorts of subsidies would include things like transportation subsidies, zoning laws, intellectual property and more.
The tremendous power the firm has makes the worker expendable to some extent. But it also seems like the average worker is seeing the firm as more and more expendable. They’re moving from job to job a little more easily than past generations did and some seem to be looking as much as for fulfillment then a good paycheck.
Job hopping can actually have some positive benefits as Forbes writer Jeanne Meister explains:
Job hopping can also lead to greater job fulfillment, which is more important to Gen Y workers than it was to any previous generation: A 2012 survey by Net Impact found that 88 percent of workers considered “positive culture” important or essential to their dream job, and 86 percent said the same for work they found “interesting.” Job-hopping helps workers reach both of these goals, because it means trying out a variety of roles and workplaces while learning new skills along the way.
I’m not claiming that somehow it’s now easy to get some sort of meaning out of your job. My personal experiences and the experience of most people I know don’t show this either. But outside of my selection bias it seems like various websites, studies and experiences of other folks are pointing in different directions. And to my mind that’s a good thing (generally speaking) if more people are more easily able to liver their lives in meaningful ways.
Now, I may not agree with their value systems or the way they choose to bring the fulfillment to themselves but I can still appreciate that more people are more easily able to feel happy with themselves and their lives. If they’re really happy based on bad premises or using faulty methods then they’ll either figure it out or those of us who disagree can show them a better way.
What would a better way look like though?
Well my personal solution has been to cut costs, share what costs I have left with others (insofar as we both mutually benefit in some way from it) and try to live simply. Now, what “simply” in this context means is gonna depend heavily on a whole host of things. One of those things are your expectations for your life but also how much money you want or things you think you “need” at some sort of base level.
My base level needs (especially given I am a writer and a video-editor) are a computer, a cell phone, a weeks worth of clothing, toiletries (deodorant, toothbrush, etc.), a duffel bag to keep my stuff in, my journal (with a pencil and/or pen), my wallet, and a messenger bag to hold my laptop and maybe a few books in. There may be a few things I’m missing but that’s a pretty solid list anyhow.
Now, you might not want to cut costs like I do or take the methods I do to get by (I use a mix of daily chores and help around the house plus food stamps) and that’s totally fine. But that’s one choice you can make in your life to reduce the amount of time you need to work in a given week, year or if you’re lucky, you’re life. That way you’re more free to disregard careers or the corporate world entirely and instead work more independently for yourself or bring that same independent spirit to cooperative projects with others that you believe in.
Gallup.com provided a top five predictor for what may cause workers to leave which includes the immediate manage, being a poor fit for the job, poor pay and benefits and a few others. It also talked about how there are big costs when it comes to workers (particularly important ones) leaving the firm:
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that the U.S. voluntary turnover rate is 23.4% annually. It’s generally estimated that replacing an employee costs a business one-half to five times that employee’s annual salary. So, if 25% of a business’ workforce leaves and the average pay is $35,000, it could cost a 100-person firm between $438,000 and $4 million a year to replace employees.
Given my anti-capitalist inclinations, I think this makes job hopping even more attractive. What a better way to hurt a business that is treating you poorly then to go and work for an organization that better fits your needs and values? This organization could even be competing with your older place of employment which could very well sweeten the deal for you.
A lot of the articles seem to want to cure this problem from the top down. The Forbes article is mostly giving advice to managers not to discriminate harshly against job hoppers, Recruiter.com cites some management ideas that they have that could help and Doug Horn of Recruitify also does some focusing on what different management tactics might help alleviate the situation.
Suffice it to say I more agree with the third reason that Horn provides about the “problems” here:
Wharton management professor Adam Cobb sees the declining loyalty as a symptom of an evolving relationship between organization and employee. Cobb sees employee behavior being influenced from the major organizational restructuring that began thirty years ago. “Firms have always laid off workers, but in the 1980s, you started to see healthy firms laying off workers, mainly for shareholder value. Firms would say ‘We are doing this in the long-term interest of our shareholders,’” Cobb noted. “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.” Basically, if a company does not take care of its employees, it can’t expect those workers to stick around for long.
Cobb once again seems to not only see the issues but seem them more systematically and institutionally which is a welcomed change from other folks who usually just cite better management skills.
Of course, even Cobbs isn’t going far enough to my liking. These problems aren’t bugs in the system, they’re features as far as I am concerned and we’re only going to get a much better (and meaningful) life for workers if we abolish work, smash the state and end capitalism.