What Will It Take For Young Canadian Workers To Stop Job Hopping?


The Public Policy Forum recently released a report detailing recommendations for Canadian organizations seeking to not only attract, but to retain top young talent.

“The Road to Retention” report sought to bridge the generational gap and address the disconnect some feel exists between Gen Y values and attitudes, and many workplace cultures.

The results take the form of 10 recommendations for organizations to pursue to keep young workers.

I am a member of Generation Y, a recent entrant into the professional working world and a job-hopper with a chronic case of wanderlust.

As I read the report, I had to wonder: if an organization followed these ideas, would I be more likely to stay put?

Most of the suggestions are positive ideas that would require little investment but could make an organization’s culture more attractive.

The report asks employers to:

  • recognize and nurture new ideas and creative thinking from young workers with fresh perspectives
  • maintain a real open-door policy between management and employees
  • shift the focus from the bottom line to the people by fostering dialogue
  • show young employees how they can grow through mentoring
  • stimulate intergenerational conversations

This seems like sound advice regardless of the age of employees.

In my current position, for example, senior management has made excellent use of blogging to create a dialogue across the organization, which has been well-received by many staff members, not just those born after 1980. As well, I’m not sure I would feel a lack of intergenerational conversations would be a deciding factor in my choice to pursue another opportunity.

If I were happily working in a job in my field, factors of workplace culture that may affect whether I job-hopped would more strongly be affected by whether there is an understanding that the boundaries of the office have shifted and whether benefits are made relevant to my life stage.

I have been fortunate to work in two departments over the past year that have been “results based” rather than focused on a punch clock and hours logged. I know I can be more productive and happy when I can practice a greater work-life balance.

“Although I notice when my current employer pays lip service to ‘green ideas’ while at a meeting featuring bottled water and paper plates, I would not quit my job over it.”

Again, however, several older people on my team feel the same and work flextime. One co-worker says she likes to work at home whenever she needs to be creative because cubicle land isn’t necessarily conducive to innovative work.

Customizing benefits also makes sense and could apply to every stage of life, not just young workers. A subsidized gym or transit pass would be great now, while in a few years I may be more concerned with family-based benefits. Still, considering that at the moment my job does not even offer health benefits to interns, I doubt a gym pass would entice me enough to stay.

Corporate values and practices also featured as recommendations. My values are important to me and there are companies I would not work for because they don’t align with those values. However, although I notice when my current employer pays lip service to ‘green ideas’ while at a meeting featuring bottled water and paper plates, I would not quit my job over it.

Overall the recommendations seem to equate to good business practice, but if I were an HR manager I would hesitate to go after an entire generation with a blanket approach. Hiring and firing is always going to be about finding a good fit between an individual and an organization.

As Gen Y has begun entering the workforce, I have noticed two narratives emerging. The first is the employer perspective of competition for talent and the second is of the recent graduate experience of the competition for jobs.

They seem contradictory; stories from the employer perspective focus on a crisis of trying to hire and retain young workers, while stories from the new grad perspective focus on high competition for jobs, increased expectations at the entry-level and an unstable economy and job market.

So is the job market ours for the taking or is it impossible to gain entry to our chosen fields?

It is this disconnect we need to understand, rather than theorizing about an entire cohort’s supposedly common values and behaviours, if we want to keep young workers in the country and in organizations.

Otherwise, it will remain attractive for new graduates who have tried unsuccessfully to enter their fields in Canada to go abroad where there is more opportunity. And it will make sense that those of us heavily in debt will take the less-than-ideal jobs that cross our path, all the while constantly seeking that opportunity to hop to that will launch us in the direction we want to go.

Would these recommendations for organizational culture make you more likely to stay with one company for a long period of time?

About the author

Carley Centen is an aspiring writer/editor passionate about storytelling and obsessed with obsolete words and impractical typewriters. She holds an honours B.A. in International Development Studies from Trent University and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Socio-Legal Studies at York, which she hopes will help to prepare her for a career in non-profit communications or consulting. Carley is currently (and sporadically) developing her writing at her personal blog, C. Centen (Run).