It's long been conventional wisdom that so-called "job hoppers" and the long-term unemployed make bad employees, right? Not so, according to a Q2 2013 Workforce Report by Evolv, a data provider that uses analytics to study employee retention. The report, which you can read here, is called, "How Big Data Is Changing The Way Operating Executives (editor's note: and staffing firms?) Manage Their Hourly Workforce."  

Before we get to some of the specifics of their job hoppers myth busting, a few factoids about the hourly workforce according to Evolv:

  • 60% of the American workforce is made up of hourly workers
  • 50% of hourly workers remain on the job less than one year
  • $3,500 is the average cost to hire
  • Lost productivity from a poorly matched hire can add another $3,000 - $10,000 to that cost per employee
  • 1 in 2 hourly workers are over the age of 35
  • 100 Million hourly worker hires a year in the U.S.
  • $350 Billion - annual cost of hourly worker attrition

Now, about that notion that the unemployed, particularly the long-term unemployed, face discrimination as a job candidate.

Last year I wrote about the issue in this Staffing Talk post called "Unemployed Need Not Apply." I mentioned an episode of 60 Minutes profiling some chronically unemployed people in Connecticut.  In their defense came a man by the name of Joe Carbone. He is president and chief executive officer of The WorkPlace, one of five Regional Workforce Development Boards in the state of Connecticut that prepares people for careers while strengthening the workforce for employers.

Why have these people been turned down again and again?” asks Carbone. “They are being discriminated against because of how long they have been unemployed. I’ve seen it in print…in newspaper ads that say ‘if you are unemployed you need not apply.’ Businesses cannot legally discriminate by age, race or sex. But there is a new minority group now. The long-term unemployed.”

"Businesses cannot legally discriminate by age, race or sex. But there is a new minority group now. The long-term unemployed.”

The problem is pervasive enough that several states have either enacted - or introduced - legislation making it illegal to advertise a job requiring that applicants be employed.

Let's swing back to the Evolv data that seems to render the idea of having to legislate against this moot. Evolv, in their words, say they sought to challenge the assumption of short job tenure and long-term unemployment with an analytical approach to determine if companies would be better served by considering a large population of candidates they customarily eliminate right away.

To get the empirical data on how job hoppers actually perform, Evolv asked the following two questions to a sample of 112,774 job applicants.

1) How many different full time (at least 35 hours per week) paid jobs have you held in the last five years?

2) In the last five years, how many full-time jobs have you held for less than six months, other than jobs you had while in school?

The hypothesis was that applicants who had held "many" full-time jobs over that period of time, and many positions for less than six months, could be considered job hoppers and would have shorter tenure on your job once hired.

What Evolv found was no difference in employee tenure. The report says "there was virtually no difference in employment outcomes based on how many jobs a person had, or how many short-term jobs they had previously. Evolv also found virtually no difference in survival cuves based on previous unemployment. These results indicate that an applicant's previous work history is actually a poor predictor of future outcomes."

"Evolv found virtually no difference in survival cuves based on previous unemployment. These results indicate that an applicant's previous work history is actually a poor predictor of future outcomes."

Whoa, hold right there. Past history is no predictor of future outcomes? That sounds like the disclaimer boilerplate for an investment pitch. Do you buy that? Agree or disagree with the conclusion based on your experience? Do share anecdotes please.

So, if past performance and work history isn't predictive, what is? The Evolv report says more accurate assessment criteria are "personality, aptitudes, work style, technical skills, and fit for the position."

"More accurate assessment criteria are "personality, aptitudes, work style, technical skills, and fit for the position."

Does this change the way you think about your applicant pool? it might suddenly expand it as one business owner opined.

Evolv of course hopes that you put old-fashioned instinct and intuition on the shelf in favor of big data and a software solution to supplement, if not supplant, your own personnel decisions.

Laszlo Bock, a senior vice president at Google, and an Evolv board member, says, "Even at the most sophisticated companies, there's still a lot of guessing."

Tags: Productivity, Employee Retention, Industry, Big data, Big data in hiring, Cost of attrition, Cost of hire, Evolv, Hourly workers, Job hoppers, Long-term unemployed