A CEO’s Perspective on Employee Turnover — Happy and Successful Employees Change Jobs Less Frequently


In the good to great companies, there was not a high turnover rate of employees leaving the company. They were in it for the long haul. —Jim Collins, Author of Good to Great

If you Google ‘How Long Should an Employee Stay at a Job?’ or ‘Job-hopping is on the rise,’ you will see articles that lead you to believe that it’s ok to change jobs every 2 to 4 years. Some even suggest that it’s best to change jobs that often.

After 40 years of running large National Engineering Consulting firms and performing extensive research about job happiness and success, I believe the following:

  1. Most workers that are engaged and happy tend to stay with their employer far longer than an average of 2 to 4 years.
  2. People who do change jobs frequently are not in a career they are especially good at or passionate about, and/or do not do adequate research on candidate employers before taking a position.
  3. The best organizations to work for generally consider candidates that repeatedly change jobs every 2 or 3 years to be ‘job hoppers’ and therefore would not consider them for employment.

The best way to be an engaged and successful employee is to: 1) discover a career that you will be happy and successful in and 2) research the organizations you are considering applying for to make sure they have a reputation of appreciating and rewarding engaged and happy workers.

My experiences

During the last 30 years of my career, I was an Executive VP or CEO of three leading National Engineering Consulting companies with hundreds and thousands of employees. To maintain our leadership position, we had very strict hiring criteria. In order to get hired, candidates must:

  • Love and be good at the position they were hired for.
  • Be very good team players.
  • Be willing to sacrifice personnel time when necessary.

These were essential because of the nature of our work. Namely, most of our employees would:

  • Learn our approach to solving client’s needs by being part of a close-fit team.
  • Participate in client meetings to learn how to communicate with very important outsiders.

As a result, more than 90% of our employees were both engaged and happy. Some years we even had a 0% turnover rate. And it was typical for most of our staff to work with us for more than 10 years.

Important articles about ‘engaged’ and ‘un-engaged’ employees

“The relationship between engagement and performance at the business/work unit level continues to be substantial.” Gallup, The Relationship Between Engagement at Work and Organizational Outcomes

Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report concludes that only 33% of all U.S. employees are engaged and happy at work. About 51% are not engaged, meaning they are just there for a paycheck. The remaining 16% are actively disengaged, meaning they are miserable at work and cause disruption to the work atmosphere. Surprisingly, the article also shows that even less (only 31%) of college graduates are engaged.

Gallup concludes that when people are engaged, “their individual performance soars, and they propel their team and organization to improved crucial outcomes such as higher levels of productivity, safety and quality.” At the same time, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that 40 % (or about 64 million) of U.S. workers change jobs each year (42 million voluntarily and 22 million are laid off or discharged). The costs associated with 40% of employees leaving every year is enormous, especially when considering time and costs due to the hiring and training processes. These statistics also highlight the extreme value of those that are engaged and remain employed for extended periods.

How to best prepare yourself to be happy and successful at work

A logical goal for anyone planning to change jobs would be to:

  1. Either confirm that they are already in a good career field or determine a new career area where they would be happy and successful in, and their education levels and existing skills would be attractive to a new employer.
  2. Perform a job search to identify organizations that are hiring in that career area and have the reputation of having a high percentage of engaged workers.

My Forbes article, The Danger Of Making Life Decisions From Career Assessments — And How To Make Good Decisions, shows that existing ‘career finding tests’ are not adequate for determining your best career. They do not provide consistent results or have any process to narrow your top 30 to 50 careers to 1 or 2 best candidates. Two main reasons for this downfall is because they are based only on personality or aptitude traits and provide no characteristics of the careers.

To overcome these deficiencies, I have developed a program that reliably allows a participant to discover their best 1 or 2 new careers that satisfy the following necessary criteria:

  1. Their 5 key personal characteristics (Personality, Aptitude, Areas of Interests, Work Preferences, and Natural Traits.
  2. Four very important career characteristics:
    • The level of education they are willing to pursue.
    • The salary that they would be satisfied with.
    • A growth rate to assure stability for the foreseeable future.
    • Activities they would feel passionate about.

And my blog article, Five Key Steps Toward Maximizing Career Happiness And Success, provides guidance on how to find employers that will give you the opportunity to grow and be happy. I hope that this article will assist you in finding a new career and related job that will: 1) make you very happy and successful and 2) allow you to spend your energy on work you are good at and passionate about. If you find yourself contemplating who your next employer should be every 2 or 3 years, the PATH2 program can help!

This article also appears on Dr. Ellison's Medium blog