A Troubling Sign of Our Times: The Continuous Job Seeker

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HERE’S A NOT-SO-SURPRISING statistic that speaks volumes about the world we live in: More than one-third (37 percent) of employees are always looking for their next job opportunity, according to a global study by ManpowerGroup Solutions.

These never-ending job seekers are referred to as “Continuous Candidates” in Manpower’s new report titled Always Looking: The Rise of Continuous Candidatesand it also found that “Continuous Candidates” are more prevalent in the United States, where 41 percent of employees are always looking for their next gig.

It’s even worse in Mexico, where 50 percent of workers agree with the statement, “I am always looking for the next job opportunity.”

Why are Continuous Candidates always looking?

So, why are there far more “Continuous Candidates” in the U.S. and Mexico than in the rest of the world? The report lists several factors:

  1. Alternative forms of employment emerge faster in the United States than anywhere else. “The popularity and visibility of the gig economy with companies like Uber, Lyft and Task-Rabbit are redefining how people work. Workers have flexibility and employers save money on capital costs and employee benefits.”
  2. Tech firms have led the way on contract employment worldwide. Because these are the companies many people aspire to work for, there is greater acceptance of the new model.
  3. Layoffs and job losses experienced in the wake of the Great Recession imparted a message to young and old alike that job security is not necessarily guaranteed.

That last point should probably be the first one, because the way a great many companies treated workers during the Great Recession — waves of furloughs, layoffs, pay cuts, reduced benefits, and an arrogant “if-you-don’t-like-it-you-can-leave” attitude — destroyed whatever sense of loyalty and job security that was left among workers.

Profile of the never-ending job seeker

So, who are these never-ending job seekers? Here’s what they survey said about that:

Who are these Continuous Candidates? They are predominantly Millennials, or at least, a subset of Millennials. 60 percent of Continuous Candidates are Millennials/Gen Y (aged 18-34). Yet, within that age group they skew older: 70 percent of the Millennial Continuous Candidates are aged 25-34 (versus only 30 percent aged 18-24). This distinction is important because it indicates the Continuous Candidate mindset is less generational than previous research suggests.

Millennials with more experience in the workforce are more likely to be habitually looking for jobs. The “job-hopper” stigma often attached to Millennials principally applies to the 25 to 34 year-olds. And employers appear to be playing a role in creating Continuous Candidates; they may be unwittingly contributing to the Continuous Candidate phenomenon by not meeting candidates’ expectations for advancement or promotion.”

The notion that candidates’ expectations for advancement or promotion are not being met is an ongoing theme that emanates from the Millennial generation, and it’s a huge issue for organizations everywhere. The survey digs into this very point, and here’s what they say about this issue:

Continuous Candidates are distinctive from their non-Continuous counterparts. They have lower job satisfaction; they are twice as likely to express dissatisfaction with their jobs. Many (43 percent) believe every job is temporary. They are almost four times as likely (38 percent versus 10 percent) to agree with the statement “the best way to advance my career is to change jobs frequently.” They are more than twice as likely (57 percent vs. 24 percent) to agree with the statement “the best way to increase my compensation is by changing jobs frequently.”

What companies must do to keep Millennials on board

My take: I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating — organizations everywhere bear the blame for how they treated employees during the Great Recession. The notion of loyalty to one’s employer was pretty much destroyed by how so many companies treated their people when times got tough.

Millennials saw how their parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends and neighbors, were treated during that time. It shaped their outlook on jobs and employers today. It will take a long time, if ever, for organizations to change that mindset.

But, it can be changed, and this report points to some of the factors that Millennials want that can change their perceptions of employment: A strong focus on career development and advancement, meaningful work, strong, regular communication up and down the food chain, and a strong workplace culture that they can embrace.

These things aren’t that tough to implement, but companies need to get serious and get at it. As Nike always says, “Just Do It.

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