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Retention, Stereotyping and Assumptions

(September 23, 2005) The latest research says that people don't quit their jobs because they hate them. They change jobs on impulse, driven by a shock. Our assumptions about the job hunter are extremely misplaced.

More good people leave their jobs because of shocks -- either positive or negative ones -- than because of dissatisfaction with their employers, Georgetown University professor Brooks Holtom says in a study published in the United States this week in the fall issue of Human Resource Management Journal. "Contrary to conventional wisdom, accumulated job dissatisfaction is not the immediate cause of most voluntary turnover. Job dissatisfaction is a factor, but to focus on it as the dominant cause of most turnover is incomplete and limited," Prof. Holtom writes. (Globe And Mail)

Unexpected outside events are far more likely  to cause turnover than the "Take this job and shove it" vision of rage finally released. Gruelling distaste for the boss, the pay, the environment, the coworkers or the actual task are not what makes people change jobs.

A death or illness in the family, an unexpected job offer, a significant birthday, a new love relationship, a car accident, a personal disasterm an enlightenment, a new spiritual experience, an awakening. These are the things that cause job turnover and many of them are positive for the individual. The stereotypical image of a job changer as disloyal or disaffected is simply wrong.

Disaffected people keep their jobs and complain about them.

On a level, this explains the industry's endless fascination with the so called "passive job hunter". Easy to shock into an opportunity, the person who isn't looking is easier to negotiate with than an active candidate. We like passive job hunters because they are easier to recruit, not better employees.

Every salesperson in the world prefers an impulse buyer to an educated consumer. Impulse buyers are are quick to decide and don't compare alternatives. Educated consumers negotiate hard and build a universe of alternatives. Active job hunters get their bad reputation because they are not in the jump quickly mode. People who jump are called passive candidates.

People move because of a shock to their systems:

Turnover is often triggered by a precipitating event (for example a fight with the boss or an unexpected job offer) that we call a 'shock' to the system." Talented employees are experiencing more of those positive jolts these days in the current robust hiring climate, says Ralph Shedletsky, managing director of Toronto-based career consulting firm Knightsbridge GSW.

"When a recruiter calls and the market is more robust, a whole bunch of factors play in: If I can earn more money, why not? If the environment is going to be better, for sure," Mr. Shedletsky says.

(Globe and Mail)

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