How to use short-term strategies to motivate job-hoppers


Need to know:

  • Mentoring, training and development are crucial to retaining employees, and should be implemented early on to catch those who are less likely to remain long-term.
  • Younger employees are often motivated to stay in a job longer if they are offered flexible hours and the option of working from home, as well as healthcare and mental health support benefits.
  • Getting to know what motivates individual employees is key to creating a sense of belonging among staff, which can impact retention.

The Office for National Statistics’ UK labour market: September 2018 report states that 75.5% of working age individuals are currently in employment. With the job market currently so buoyant, there has never been a better time for employees of all ages to look for new roles.

Furthermore, student and graduate recruitment organisation Milkround, which surveyed 5,809 graduates between April and May 2018, found that 55% of those born between 1995 and 2015 are set to be future job-hoppers, planning to stay in their first role for less than two years.

If long-term goals and progression planning within one organisation are no longer key motivators for many, and individuals are increasingly likely to move on to greener pastures if they are not engaged, employers need to change their perspective on what will get the best out of a workforce.

Monetary incentives

Jon Butterfield, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) chief executive officer at global IT recruitment agency Talent, attributes recent increases in the job-hopping trend to a huge growth in technology in the UK, combined with a lack of skilled labour due to Brexit, and not enough young people studying computer science, especially women.

“It’s great for graduates as they can just about go anywhere they want to,” he explains. “We’re currently seeing a lot of ‘buy backs’. It may cost 15% of the person’s salary to replace them, so the organisation will match the money they’ve been offered. This is creating a wage inflation we haven’t seen for many years.”

So, pay is still a significant factor in motivating employees. Indeed, some industries use this tactic from the very beginning, explains Tom McNally, EMEA director of talent acquisition at global real estate organisation Colliers International.

“Because there are only six to eight universities that offer degrees in surveying, graduates will be approached by employers and headhunted by recruitment agencies, so they’ll be offered sign-on bonuses with tie-ins and, sometimes, this will mean they get all their university fees paid, too,” he explains.

There are few clearer or more quantifiable methods of demonstrating an investment in an employee than through pay, particularly if this takes into consideration the economic stressors, such as high university debts, that might be influencing a younger employee’s ability to focus and engage.

However, employers should be aware that, while pay makes a statement, the modern workforce is looking for more.

Training and development

To motivate employees for whom remaining in a role long-term is not the default, organisations need to show a clear commitment to their development from day one.

Georgie Brazier, jobs expert at Milkround, says: “Ensuring there’s training and mentoring in the first six months [will] show the employee they’re valued and [that the organisation is] willing to invest in them.

“Something we’re seeing more of is ‘reverse mentoring’, where a new employee will be a mentor for a senior manager to offer their insights, especially around culture and technology. It gives the new employee a chance to talk about their expectations and creates an open conversation, so they don’t feel there’s a hierarchy.”

Butterfield adds: “For younger people, it’s about benefiting themselves, so development and training is really important to bear in mind, and that shouldn’t be lost on older people, either.”

This is not just about allowing the employee to see a direct pipeline for advancement in the future, but also taps into an employee’s more immediate need to feel productive and valuable within the role they currently occupy.

Guy Hayward, chief executive officer at finance recruitment organisation Goodman Masson, explains: “It’s not just about pay. People want to do a great job and if [employers] don’t have the infrastructure to support [staff], then they can’t.”

Benefits to motivate

According to Milkround’s research, 47% of graduates expect to receive healthcare benefits and 44% believe they should have access to mental health support.

“Employers need to take both of these really seriously if they want to keep employees motivated and retain graduates, who find it much easier to talk about what were considered difficult issues around mental health,” Brazier says. “It’s important they build these into their strategies, as it shows they really care for the employee and take their welfare seriously.”

Employers should also consider the benefits of providing the opportunity for flexible working, to help retain and motivate employees for whom work-life balance is of growing importance, and who increasingly want to shape their employment around their individual needs. 


A sense of belonging is often cited as an important motivator for employees. This stems from employees finding their work interesting and getting on with their colleagues.

“It is important for employees to feel they have a sense of belonging and that they get involved in programmes, and there is good, consistent internal communication and messaging,” says Butterfield. “Employers also need to celebrate success and thank employees for making a valued contribution.

“There can be a disconnect between the board and staff, and they need to get them to engage by listening to employees and giving them this sense of belonging. It’s important to get the internal culture right, [employers] will lose people if [they] don’t.”

Meaning and purpose

Motivation expert and author James Sale says the number one motivator for younger employees is finding meaning in the organisation they work for.

“I call it the ‘searcher’ motivator, which is meaning, purpose and making a difference,” he explains. “Meaning has become the most important motivator in the UK over the last 12 years. Also, creativity is very important, alongside autonomy; micro-managing people is the wrong way to go about managing.”

Employers should be focused on security, belonging, recognition, control, money, expertise, creativity and innovation and freedom, with purpose and mission as the top motivators, Sale notes.

“There is not one motivator for everyone, but if [employers] can get three motivators then [they] will get 100% motivation,” he says. “If employees are disengaged, then [the organisation] won’t perform, therefore it’s vital [employers] know what motivates [their] staff. It’s not something [an organisation] can assume [it knows].”

McNally agrees: “The key thing is to get to know employees, because sometimes it can be something obscure that will make them happy, and unless employers get to know what that is, [they] won’t ever know what their push and pull factors are.”