Blog Post

Is Two Weeks’ Notice an Outdated Standard?

Larissa Faw

Business Journalist

In high school, my friend and I strategized exactly when to quit our mall jobs in order to enjoy our summer break. We may have been entitled brats, but we knew that 14 days' notice was a standard courtesy—and it was unthinkable to leave our managers in the lurch.

The professional workforce tends to mirror my teenage mindset, taking the standard two-week departure for granted. It's a mutually beneficial courtesy, the logic goes, in which employees provide notice (in order to receive positive recommendations) and employers have enough time to hire and train replacements.

But there are rumblings that this tradition is eroding. Talk to anyone who has dealt with a departing employee and he or she will concur: When it comes to giving notice, the status quo may no longer be standard.

Too Short for HR ...

In positions requiring specialized skills, two weeks isn't nearly enough time to hire and train replacements. In fact, it takes employers today an average of 27.3 working days to fill vacant positions, a new high. According to the Dice-DFH Vacancy Duration Measure, an index created by University of Chicago economist Steven Davis, jobs in the financial services sector take an average of 41 days to fill, while healthcare jobs averaged 41.9 days and government positions averaged 39.5.

Even the interview process has been super-sized in recent years, growing by almost four days since 2009, according to Glassdoor. Plus, these figures don't account for the lag in time between when the job is filled and the candidate's official start date.

... and for Talented Candidates

As a result, many companies now ask employees to stay for at least a month to make sure their replacements are fully trained and self-sufficient. And for the most part, employees are often happy to stay around, even if they have already found another position.

The reason? Staying longer than 14 days can serve as a source of pride. It signals that employees are important and required, which in turn, elevates their status at both their current and upcoming place of employment.

"It's a bragging right. My boss needs me," says one banker who asked to remain anonymous.

For the most part, HR managers tend to be gracious about this added time. As an employer, they're generally pleased to know they're gaining valuable and in-demand talent.

But Too Long for Time Wasters and Disgruntled Employees

On the flip side, employers don't need someone to stick around to train a replacement when they're eliminating or transforming a job. "If you aren't utilizing the employee in a way that empowers them to pass on knowledge, you are basically doing nothing with the two weeks notice, therefore it is invalid by nature," says UC Davis Athletics' Troy Kirby, who has called the 14-day notice a "dead concept."

Then there are the not-quite-so happy departures. Many employers, particularly in technology and finance, prefer that someone who quits leave immediately, lest he or she stick around to steal information or clients. Several ad agencies, for instance, typically prefer quitters to leave as soon as possible since the industry's revolving door means that person is more than likely heading to a competitor.

A Conversation, Not a Calendar

It's important to note that the intent behind the gesture is still expected. It may just be lip service, but every HR manager expects employees to at least offer to stay for a set amount of time before his or her goodbye party.

"It really depends on the person and the role," says Scott Goodson, CEO of ad agency StrawberryFrog, who employs more than 200 staffers. He echoes the sentiment of most hiring managers when he says that each circumstance must be approached uniquely.

In fact, this notion underscores the broader trend across the workplace wherein personalization has replaced standardization. The two-week notice may soon be going the way of the 9 to 5 schedule and beige cubicle.

Photo: Shutterstock

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