Report: Trends in Job Tenure—and What Employers Should Do About Them

Remember the days of the engraved gold watch, that special gift presented to loyal employees as a reward for long service?

Chances are that you don’t — especially if you started your career in this century. The world of work has changed so much over the past two decades that glittering timepieces marking long tenure at a single firm have become symbols of a bygone age: like acid washed jeans, rotary telephones or ads for cigarettes on TV.   

Unlike in previous decades, today’s workers expect to move between roles, companies and even career fields.

But just how often do they make these changes? Recently, Indeed conducted a study of U.S. workers across industries to learn just how often employees change roles — and why they’re doing it. Let’s take a look at the results.

What is the average tenure in today’s workplace?

Listen to the hype and you may start to feel as though job-hopping is rampant, but survey results show that the average job tenure is actually around 7 years. Longer tenures are relatively common, with a fifth of workers saying they’re been in their current position for more than 10 years and more than a third reporting that they’ve been in their position for 5-10 years.  

And while Millennials are notorious for serial job hopping, it turns out that this much-maligned demographic may be getting a bad rap. The average 25-34 year old reports having worked in the same role for 4 years. This may not compare to the decades-long tenures of years past, but it isn’t
that far behind Gen X — and you can contribute a lot to a firm in four years (as well as learn important skills).

As you might expect, the older workers surveyed were more likely to have longer tenures. Gen X employees (aged 35-44) report working in the same position for an average of 7 years, workers aged 45-54 years old have been in the same position for an average of 10 years and workers aged 55-64 have remained in the same position for 11 years on average.

Why do employees change roles?

Employee job moves don’t always involve taking on a position at a new company. Many of the workers we surveyed simply changed jobs within their current companies.

The top reason cited for an internal move was a desire for further career advancement (64.4%), followed by an interest in expanding skills (41.8%) These reasons suggest that employers and department leaders can increase employee satisfaction by creating more opportunities for development and enrichment.

It may come as a surprise that most employees don’t make these types of moves to get better pay. Well under half (38%) of workers pointed to a desire for better compensation and benefits as the reasons for switching roles within their companies.

Why do employees change companies?

Employees who decide to change companies point to a slightly different breakdown of motivations.

Understandably, dissatisfaction with a manager or work environment played a much bigger role (27.8% for employees changing companies vs. 8.5% switching jobs internally), as it’s easier to escape a poor environment by moving to a new…

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