Employment Trends by Generation: How Often Do People Change Jobs?

Business People Sitting at table discussing

Job hopping was once considered a taboo practice in the workforce, but has been increasing in recent years across all age groups. Reports expect that 1 in 4 people will quit their job as the pandemic nears its end – are you ready?


Did you know that employees of all ages in the United States change jobs on average every 4.2 years, according to a recent report on employee tenure from the Bureau of Labor Statistics? It’s even less time amongst those aged 35 and younger. COVID-19 has certainly affected the job market, but employment trends like this started long before the pandemic. Here’s what employers can expect among the generations:

  • Baby Boomers: People in the baby boomer generation, born between 1946 and 1964, are not as likely to change jobs as often as they near the end of their careers, but they still can move around or retire. Nearly 10,000 boomers turn 65 every day and consider retirement, and by 2030 all boomers will be 65 years of age or older. According to the Pew Research Center, “in the past year the number of retired boomers increased more than in prior years,” possibly spurred by the pandemic.
  • Gen X: This group is born between 1965 and 1979 and has at least 20 years of work experience. As baby boomers retire, they are ready to take on higher leadership positions and are willing to change jobs to make it happen. In the Global Leadership Forecast 2021 from DDI, 60% of surveyed leaders from all generations said they feel “used up” at the end of the day and among that group, 44% said they expect to change companies to advance.
  • Millennials: Data from a recent Gallup poll finds that millennials — born between 1980 and 1996 — are three times more likely to have changed jobs within the past year than non-millennials. One third of this group plans to quit after the pandemic.
  • Gen Z: This generation is born from 1997 onward and has recently entered the workforce in entry level positions in the last 5 years. Younger workers are generally more comfortable with digital technology and value more flexible schedules for a better work-life balance. According to a Pew Research Center study, 92% go online every day, with 24% of that group indicating that they are online “almost constantly.” A study from Monster found that 76% of Gen Z respondents feel they are responsible for driving their own careers. We can expect this group to be similar to Millennials with job-hopping.

The new normal changes priorities

Switching jobs used to be a resume red flag for recruiters. Now it’s becoming a more accepted practice as people seek to advance their careers or adjust to layoffs. COVID-19 has forced many companies to downsize, which will further destigmatize job-hopping.

Recruiting and replacing employees is expensive. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) estimates that, on average, it costs a company 6 to 9 months of an employee's salary to replace them. With recent reports indicating that 1 in 4 workers plans to leave their company as the pandemic nears to an end, companies will need to be innovative and creative.

In addition to retention strategies which may help stem the tide, organizations should consider building lifelong relationships with former employees. Corporate alumni programs are a proven way to secure qualified alumni referrals and rehire qualified candidates who are already familiar with an organization’s culture.

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