How does job mobility in Australia compare to other countries?

Five people sitting next to each other in an office waiting area

A recent study by research specialist McCrindle has shown that the average Australian will have 17 employers from the age of 18 up to retirement – the equivalent of five separate careers in a person’s life. Emerging trends have further shown that job mobility is on the rise with the current national average time spent in a position averaging 3.3 years. Findings from the Department of Employment’s Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) 2018 report released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) further stated that the average tenure of an employee below 25 is only 1.7 years. This is comparatively different to the average tenure of a 45 year old, which currently stands at 6.7 years –almost half of the average tenure back in 1975.

What are the factors motivating people to change jobs in Australia?

Australians no longer stay with the same career until retirement and McCrindle reported that the shift to a more flexible employment market and advances in technology which gives  candidates greater access to the job market, have contributed to an increase in voluntary workforce mobility. Today, with the majority of employees seeking a job providing a healthy work life balance, flexibility has become the new norm. People expect to be able to work flexibly and are likely to seek another job if otherwise.

According to research conducted by employment marketplace SEEK:

  •         33% of Australians change jobs to progress faster in their career
  •         22% of Australians change jobs due to a negative experience at work, such as a stressful workload or no recognition
  •        18% of Australians change jobs due to factors outside of their control, such as redundancy, relocation or health problems
  •        13% of Australians seek better work conditions for either better job security or better work life balance to be able to spend quality time with family, to study, or follow other hobbies.

Various factors such as job progression, negative experiences, better working conditions and external factors have therefore contributed to an increase in job mobility in Australia.

In terms of whether job hopping is viewed as a positive quality, strictly from a permanent market perspective – managers in Australia who have been with the same organisation for over 5 years tend to look at longevity in candidates’ CVs. Permanent employees who job hop may therefore not be perceived positively as it may come across as showing no accountability for the work they have done over the last year. If you are after a permanent role, it is important to demonstrate commitment and longevity to an employer. In saying that, job hopping also seems to be more popular in younger candidates as they tend to aspire for a good mix of experience across different industries. However, the more senior you get, the less appealing job hopping becomes. Please note that the concern around job hoppers does not apply to candidates who work short contractual roles as the nature of their jobs are short term.

Attitudes surrounding job hoppers change depending on the type of role and industry in which you work and may be more acceptable within the technology sector as people in this industry often want to work with the best technology and therefore change jobs to upskill themselves. In all other spaces, job hoppers may not be perceived as positively.

To better understand the impact of job mobility, we also reached out to Elizabeth Floyd, Sales Team Manager at SThree Australia to share her views on job hoppers under the contractor model in Australia.  

How do Australian employers view contractors who job hop?

 “The Australian market has a good understanding of the contractor model and 90% of hiring managers and organisations are not put off by contractors who job hop. Often, they see the value in the fact that contractors have been exposed to a wider variety of environments and as such, are able to take that experience with them to the new job. Culturally, it is not unusual in Australia to see a contractor working for a period of 6 months in a company within the IT industry before moving on to a new role. This is because the IT industry in Australia is quite open to contractual roles and can be quite project-driven. Job hoppers are portrayed to be more ambitious as they are more willing to expand their skillset and widen their experience. Based on my experience, employers look for candidates who can demonstrate adaptability to changes in the market and a wide skillset that shows success in their prior jobs”.  

Do you think that attitudes towards contractual job hoppers change according to the type of role and industry in which they work?

“I do not think that the type of industry will affect attitudes towards contractors who job hop as the nature of a contractual job lends itself to job hopping; i.e. contracts have a definitive start and end. However I do think that this can be viewed negatively in other industries where the role is an ongoing one”.

Celine Hendrick, Head of the Permanent team at SThree Benelux & France, also provided us with further insights about their local perspective on job hoppers.

How popular is job mobility in the Benelux region & France?

“My observation of job mobility across Europe is that people in France and Belgium tend to stay in a job longer than in the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Denmark. This is mainly due to how differently their legislation is set up. Historically, employers in the Benelux region have found it difficult to terminate low performing employees on permanent contracts. As such, a new model has been implemented whereby employers in the Netherlands offer a one year contract with possibility to extend. This has resulted in an average of about 70-80% of people in the Netherlands who start on a one year initial contract rather than on a permanent contract; with both the employer and candidate evaluating a possible extension of the role after a year. The change in legislation has enabled both employers and employees to be more flexible and reassess whether they are a good fit for each other closer to the renewal date of the employee’s contract”.

Is there a difference in attitudes across countries regarding people who job hop?

“I will not be surprised to see that employees in the Netherlands will move faster and quicker to another role due to changes in legislation. This change is arguably also determined by the culture in the Netherlands, which in some ways encourages people to be independent in their way of thinking – this could be why people are not afraid to change jobs. The STEM industries in the Netherlands is also a candidate-led market and the model almost encourages people to move on after a year with the employer.

In comparison, employees in France and Belgium tend to be more attached to their job and are more likely to hold the same position for a longer period of time. It is important to note that employing someone in France or Belgium is more costly to the employer as the pension package is more substantial. In the Netherlands in comparison, the pension package will be more basic. Benefits such as extra holidays, car allowance and health insurance will also tend to be less generous in the Netherlands.

When considering how hiring managers view job hoppers, I personally think that this depends on the industry. In comparison to Australia where it is widely acceptable for IT employees to work on short term contracts, the acceptable period of time before someone changes jobs in the Netherlands is one year. The Netherlands however, is more open to people taking a 6 month career break. And this is more common in the Netherlands than in other parts of Europe such as Belgium and France where it can be more conservative on that front”.

Luuk Houtepen, Business Development Director at SThree Germany further shared his insights about job hoppers in the DACH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) below:

How are job hoppers perceived in the DACH region?

“In comparison to the Netherlands’s progressive attitudes towards work, Germany is more conservative and people tend to stay with the same employer for a long period of time. This loyal attitude towards the employer is embedded in the German culture and therefore job hoppers will not be seen favourably in Germany. It is really frowned upon when you leave a company within two years, even if you have a good reason behind the move. It could be a huge negative on your CV when you are applying for a new role. People who work in Germany should be adopting a “stick it out” attitude and show loyalty to their employer to succeed. In contrast, Austria and Switzerland are far more accepting of employees changing jobs”.

From your experience recruiting talent in Germany – which is one of the countries in the DACH region would perception towards job hoppers change?

“I am unsure if the perception will change towards job hoppers in Germany as people tend to be more risk averse and businesses are slower to respond to changes in job trends. It is also a bit harder to change the perception towards job hoppers as employer loyalty is essential, whilst career defines one’s social status, identity and success. Interestingly, notice periods can be quite long – This makes it even harder for employees to change jobs and makes the process more difficult for an organisation. The long notice periods and employer loyalty are two essential factors that discourage employees to change jobs. Generally speaking, in Germany there is strong emphasis on efficiency and functionality and people are encouraged to stay with the same employer”.

Considering how employees in Germany tend to stay longer in their jobs, what are some of the traits employers look for?

 “Germany has a different approach to hiring and are very focused on technical skills and less so on soft skills. Most hiring managers prefer to wait and hire the candidate who will be an ideal fit technically – rather than someone who will have 80% of the technical skills combined with an excellent soft skill set. Culture fit is also not as important when it comes to working in Germany – the main focus is the ability to perform duties efficiently”.

What should an ideal talent strategy be?

Our observation is that Australia is not yet as progressive as the Netherlands nor as conservative as Germany towards job hoppers in the workforce. However, one thing is clear – Australians are increasingly finding value in job opportunities with the majority of the workforce prioritising flexibility and job mobility over job security and stability. This subsequently makes it harder for employers as they can no longer rely on job salary alone to attract and retain top talent. Instead, the remuneration package should include benefits that will appeal to a flexible workforce.

At SThree, we specialise in connecting our clients with talent that will be the best fit for their company. If you would like to find out more about what valuable benefits candidates are looking at, please feel free to contact us on 02 9285 1000 for a confidential discussion.

Progressive Recruitment is part of the larger SThree Group and provides specialised permanent and contract recruitment services to the IT, Construction and Engineering Industries. 

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