Are candidates using you as a stepping stone?

Are candidates using you as a stepping stone?

A few of our clients have noticed that they feel like stepping stones—their hard-won new hires hop on, stay for a short time, and immediately hop off to a new opportunity.

When you factor in the time it takes to find the right candidate, as well as the time it takes to get them up to speed and the cost of training, replacing a single employee costs about £3000.

If employees leave after months rather than years, it leaves you with a learner in the role much of the time. Why are candidates doing this—and what can you as an employer do to stop the hop?

Why candidates could use you as a stepping stone

  1. Career advancement

If their role with you is a step up from their last job, that gives candidates the opportunity to take another step up—or sideways—into higher-level roles. These might not have been accessible to them before.

  1. Work-life balance

Most people can’t and don’t want to stay in intensely demanding roles long-term. It’s why soldiers have a tour of duty rather than staying in war zones for years on end. If the job demands negatively impact their personal life, and work stress become an issue, it won’t take long before your new hires start updating their CVs and looking at the many jobs boards to find a similar role with a better work-life balance.

  1. Skills development

Using jobs as stepping stones allows candidates to work in a wide range of roles and develop a wider range of skills that will keep them relevant and sought-after. This is particularly valuable in industries that are rapidly evolving. For example, you could offer training in new design softwares and generative AI, as well as soft skills, which are increasingly prized.

  1. Experience in multiple industries

The next step on from that: some candidates want to experience multiple industries, either to clarify where they want their career to go or to gain rare combinations of transferable skills.  For example, someone might work in modular construction and then take the expertise they’ve gained into manufacturing for the industry or even sales.

What can you do?

People tend to change jobs quickly at the beginning of their career, and although it has a negative impact when done to you, it can mean candidates are more skilled and experienced within the market. You want to be the employer they choose to stay with.

  1. Offer continued training and development

If candidates are using you to gain skills, offering rich opportunities to gain more skills will keep them hooked. If they never feel they’ve learned all they can with you, they’re likely to want to stay.

  1. Highlight career pathways and easy steps to get there

Finding and adjusting to a new employer is hard work. If you offer clear pathways to the career progression your most ambitious people are looking for, there’s no reason for them to look further afield.

  1. Create feedback loops

Make sure your people receive regular feedback on how they’re doing (especially the positives) and have regular opportunities to give feedback on their employee experience and what you could do to improve it. Then do those things.

  1. Highlight success stories from long-term employees

Employee loyalty is an area where role models help. Don’t just tell them what’s in it for them—show them via the real lived experiences of long-term employees, told in their own words.

  1. Flexibility

We’re sorry to say that if you’re still not offering maximum flexibility, and people are using you as a stepping stone, this could be a big factor. Adjusting to flexible working can be a challenge.  If there is an opportunity in your business to offer better flexibility for your employees (and let’s face it, not all businesses can do this), it can attract the very best candidates AND keep them.

In summary, being used as a stepping stone is never fun. If you show your people that they can jump to better opportunities within your organisation, they’ll have every reason to stay with you.

For further insight, get in touch with me at

Annie Parker
Account Manager, Design & Technical


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