Research

Younger staff are most likely to have itchy feet

23 Aug 2018 By Maggie Baska

Researchers found that age was the strongest factor in why people switch careers

Employees are most likely to change jobs because they are young and educated rather than through a desire to try something else, according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and ETH Zurich in Switzerland. 

Researchers surveyed 503 management programme alumni about their career histories and looked into reasons why people might change their job, including personal openness to new experiences, age at the time of a job switch, and levels of education. They also analysed the effect of annual unemployment rates, to address the economic context. 

Contrary to researchers’ initial predictions, openness to new experiences did not play a significant role in respondents’ wish to change jobs. The data found that both individual characteristics and the state of the labour market factored into why people switch careers, with age being the strongest factor.

Each respondent reported their career history from their first job after education or vocational training. Researchers found that the alumni were more likely to switch jobs earlier in their “career biography”. 

Dr Dana Unger, co-author and a lecturer in organisational behaviour at UEA’s Norwich Business School, told People Management that the results “strengthen the importance of investing resources in career management programmes”. 

“The evaluation of internal career opportunities fundamentally affects employees’ decisions to stay with or leave their current employers,” said Unger. 

The researchers also found female managers crossed boundaries more often than their male counterparts. Unger suggested this could be attributed to leaving after encountering a “glass ceiling”. 

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