by Judy M McCutcheon
A couple weeks ago I read an article in the Informer asking about good employers, and the writer gave instances of two young people who went looking for work and the plight they suffered at the hands of supposedly “bad” employers.
This really had me thinking, because only a week earlier I was talking to an employee and she was relating to me, how the owner of the establishment treats then as if they are a dime a dozen. Employers complain that employees are lazy, they want more than they are willing to give and that the talent pool is dry, so they have to import workers from elsewhere. Employees complain that employers are cruel, they pay less and expect much more and they get treated like dirt. But guess what, both the employee and the employer are products of the environment, so if these complaints are in fact true, then we need a change at the societal level. Both employee and employer must be willing to actively engage and be the change they want to see. There is also a need for change at the structural level.
So why do employers think that employees or even potential employees are bad? One complaint is that of commitment to quality and loyalty. Employees are only willing to do the bare minimum of what is required so they don’t get written up or fired. Maybe their argument is that if they are going to get paid the same amount as someone who does only the minimum requirement, then why should they go above and beyond. If we look at the school system, then we might somehow be able to find our answers there. Students are being taught how to pass an exam; the emphasis is on grades, not on curiosity and questioning. They are taught to have only the right answers, not the right questions. Our students are being told implicitly that they only need to get good grades; the students that questions are usually ostracised and labelled as trouble makers. They are not encouraged to express their creativity. Additionally, young workers today are not seen as loyal, and would leave the job for the slightest of reasons. Could this lack of perceived loyalty be linked to the fact that unemployment among millennials are so high, that there is no sense of security? Could it be that because unemployment amongst this group is so high, employers use this as a stick to beat employees over the head?
What about the engagement of employees? Are your employees sufficiently engaged that they are motivated to move beyond the bare minimum? A recent survey found that a significant number of employees are unmotivated and “sleepwalking” throughout the work day; and that one in seven employees are so miserable that they engage in counterproductive work behaviours that intentionally harm the company. Low employee morale is directly linked to poor management as well as poor hiring practices; HR plays a big part in this. Coming from an education system that relies heavily on a system of rote learning, can we expect our employees to be creative? To build an environment that thrives on creativity and innovation, our education system must incorporate and encourage divergent and out of the box thinking. This not something than can be done overnight, but with a willingness for the growth and development of our society, this can be done, little by little.
How do we start to address this issue? Often times employees are hired and put to work immediately. There is no system of orientation and onboarding, so that the employee understands the culture, as well as the systems and procedures. Again, this points to poor or ineffective management practices. Good management practices say that a new employee does not show up for work and be expected to operate at full speed. Good employment practices dictate that there is a proper system of training for a new employee. In many instances the HR department is ill prepared to deal effectively with recruitment, because in most cases HR is not seen as significant and is not given the importance it deserves. Look around at the top companies and see how many of them have a senior management position that is dedicated solely to the HR function, most times its thrown in as an afterthought with finance. And then we expect organisations to be highly efficient.
What about training? How many organisations value training and see it as the growth of their organisation? Too often managers view training as a waste of time and money, they look at time away from work for training as lost productivity. This could not be further from the truth. Good management practices know that for employees to be effective at doing their jobs they must be given the necessary tools and resources; nine out of ten times this requires training. How can you expect to get good customer ratings if your customer service is below average? And in this era where customers have so many choices, average won’t do. Common sense tells us that even if you hire an employee with the right service attitude, you still need to train that employee. Why are some companies able to deliver on their customer service promise and the majority of others are lacking in their service attitude? Much of it depends on culture of the organisation. Is there a culture where employees are valued and seen as an integral part of the growth and development of the organisation? Does management see training as an important aspect to the sustainability of the organisation? Until training as seen as an investment rather than a cost, then I’m afraid we will continue to hear these complaints.
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Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Inc, a Human Development Company. www.goblueinc.net