Embracing the Wanderlust: The Value of Job Hoppers in the Hospitality Industry

May 15, 2024 | 869 Views

Embracing the Wanderlust: The Value of Job Hoppers in the Hospitality Industry

Patrick Yearout, FMP, CHT

Director of Innovation, Recruiting, and Training | Ivar's & Kidd Valley Restaurants

An abbreviated version of this article was published in the May 2024 issue of Hotel Management Magazine.

A job applicant emailed me his resume the other day, and it showed that he had worked at 5 different restaurants in the past 3 years. And you know what I did? 

I forwarded that resume to one of our Ivar’s district managers and encouraged him to interview the candidate. Now, your first thought might be that I would be crazy to want to hire a job hopper, but please let me explain why I did so – it’s because the days of hospitality workers spending many years or decades moving up the career ladder at a single company are fading. Newer generations instead tend to see their careers less like ladders and more like lattices that weave together experiences from different companies and roles to gain new skills, take on additional responsibilities, and earn higher pay. As an industry dependent on attracting emerging workers, I believe we need to rewrite some old assumptions about career trajectories and job hopping rather than summarily ignore an entire class of candidates solely for frequent moves. 

Understanding the Shift

It’s true that in the past, extended stints at one employer often signaled loyalty, competence, and responsibility – but those traits were compensated with steady pay increases, comprehensive family insurance plans, and pensions. These incentives, coupled with a societal expectation of staying with one employer for a significant part of one's career, created a workforce that valued stability above all.

The economic and cultural landscape has shifted dramatically, however, for today's emerging talent. The promise of long-term financial and job security through pensions, 401Ks, and similar benefits has diminished, and the turbulent pandemic years and the rise of the gig economy and freelance work has changed perceptions of what employment looks like and what it should provide. Those entering the labor force now prioritize flexibility, work-life balance, and the opportunity for rapid career advancement over the perceived stability of staying with one company for a long period of time.

Research shows just how normalized job fluidity has become, especially for younger demographics. A recent Deloitte survey found that 43% of millennials and Gen Z intend to leave their company within two years versus only 17% of older employees, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the median tenure for workers ages 25-34 was 2.8 years in 2021 versus 9.9 years for workers ages 55-64. Tenures under 3-5 years no longer indicate poor performance or ethics; they represent a cultural shift in beliefs about advancement and career self-determination.

Hospitality workers standing in front of a giant map

What Job Hoppers Bring to the Table

This shift presents a unique opportunity for hospitality employers. We are known for our fast-paced and ever-changing environments, and we can greatly benefit from the adaptability and fresh perspectives that job hoppers bring. Looking at the list below, can you honestly say that these staff member qualities would not be highly prized at your hotel or restaurant?

Rather than dismissing job hoppers as unstable, you should be embracing the creative ideas and versatility they can inject into your workplaces and benefiting from their experiences.

Adapting to the New Reality

You can only unlock the potential of career-fluid applicants if you update any antiquated screening processes that unfairly ding wanderlust. If you want to achieve this goal, here are 5 suggestions to adapt your hiring criteria to the realities of the modern workforce:

Conclusion

The changing dynamics of the workforce, characterized by increased job hopping, present both challenges and opportunities for hotel and restaurant managers. By understanding the motivations behind this trend and adjusting your hiring practices accordingly, you can harness the potential of a diverse, dynamic, and skilled workforce. Embracing this change isn’t just about accommodating a new generation of workers – it's about ensuring that the hospitality industry continues to innovate and thrive in an ever-evolving landscape.

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Comments (1)

  1. MELISSA PURTILL:
    May 30, 2024 at 04:56 PM

    As someone who learned employee traits from my family who ran a family business and only ever worked at that business, I have had to accept the short-term jobs of applicants, however, this article made me see the benefits of those who changed jobs over the years.
    Thank you for showing me the value in more experiences and adaptability. I incorporated these points into an applicant questionnaire for our next Job Fair.