Skip to content

Strategic job-hopping may be good. Here’s why staying put also works

Employers, too, must do their part, to make sure employees aren’t stagnating where they are
job-interview-credit-christina-wocintechchat-com-unsplash
Job hopping today has become a popular career strategy.

Amber Winters is the senior marketing director for Pizza Pizza Ltd.

I remember when work histories that chronicled short stints were viewed as a symptom of something wrong – perhaps of a worker without loyalty or one who simply can’t get traction in any role.

Times have changed.

Job hopping today has become a popular career strategy. The idea is simple: every one or two years, find a more senior and higher-paying role in another company. The strategy appears to work: a 2024 ADP analysis of 18 million U.S. workers’ salaries found pay gains for job changers were almost double the rate of those who stayed, at 10 per cent over the previous year versus 5.1 per cent.

But there are trade-offs. Job hoppers may be missing the benefits of staying longer, such as knowing the natural ebbs and flows of the business and innovating beyond this. They may lack a sense of belonging.

Employers, too, are losing out. Strategic job hoppers are likely ambitious, goal-oriented and highly adaptable. They’re probably fast learners too, focused on acquiring new knowledge and skills for their next job.

When these high performers leave, they take their knowledge and skills, along with the time and resources their employers spent hiring, on-boarding and training them.

Doesn’t it make more sense to encourage job hoppers to stay?

In 2004, I was an up-and-coming professional with a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Toronto and fresh off almost a year of backpacking and working in accounting with Cirque du Soleil. Pizza Pizza offered me a one-month contract for an administrative role. I accepted, thinking that once my contract ended I would search for another job and adventure.

But before my month was up, I was offered a full-time role. When a senior marketing co-ordinator role opened up shortly after, I applied and got the job.

Today, two decades later, I’m still with Pizza Pizza – and I’m in plenty of good company. Almost one in five Pizza Pizza employees boasts tenure of more than 20 years. Our average employment duration is almost 10 years and our longest-term employee started in 1983.

When I tell people how long I’ve been with this organization I generally get two kinds of response: impressed and incredulous. But I also get the occasional response that implies I might be too complacent to leave.

Here’s the thing. Staying put doesn’t have to mean staying in place. For those interested in a career marked by promotions, continuous learning and, yes, salary increases, the opportunities for long-term growth still exist within the walls of many organizations.

In the 20 years I’ve been with Pizza Pizza, I’ve held six job titles. That makes me a strategic job hopper, except within the same company. The key is to figure out how to evolve with the times.

That means staying alert to potential opportunities from events such as product expansions, business acquisitions or corporate restructuring. A big turning point for me was Pizza Pizza’s 2007 acquisition of Pizza 73 in Alberta. This allowed me to assume responsibilities on a national scale. A few years later, I was promoted to marketing manager for western Canada.

Education and professional development should also be continuing priorities, along with nurturing relationships. Excel in your work. Whenever possible, go above and beyond by putting your hand up for special projects or committees.

Employers, too, need to do their part. To keep their employees from stagnating, companies should consider promotions from within before looking outside. This is where talent inventories come into play. If you’re not tracking what your employees are learning, you won’t know that Ted in finance has earned his sales certificate or that Courtney in marketing can code.

Employers need to invest in continuing professional development, and to believe in their employees enough to assign more responsibility – even when it means taking a chance once in a while. That’s how great organizations keep growing.

Employers also need to consider pay equity between new and long-term employees. When deciding on salary increases, consider what you would offer if you were hiring for that same position today. Think about providing other incentives as well. When I became a mother a few years ago, having flexibility was invaluable to me.

Staying for the long run in one company is not for everyone and, frankly, some employers may not be doing enough to earn their workers’ loyalty. But the benefits from a tenured work force are too important to ignore. Instead of accepting that strategic job hopping is here to stay, let’s do everything we can to get good workers to stay.

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about the world of work. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab and guidelines for how to contribute to the column here.