ABC of being a great Employee – Part 3

Venu Payyanur

In the previous two articles, we discussed as to how to be a “Great Employee”. However to be successful, one also needs a great organization that supports your vision, actions and aspirations! Though many organizations today claim that “Employees are their best asset”, how many really practice what they preach? In a country like India, where the economic growth is the highest in the world and opportunities are being created every day, employee attrition is a common scene even among the best paid companies. The best software company in the country, voted many years in a row as the best company to work with, also had close to 17% attrition levels. What then happens to lesser known or companies who do not practice modern human resource management philosophies? Let us analyse the common causes and remedies for such a situation.

I always believed that hiring an employee is like entering into wedlock with someone. Once entered, you must plan to live rest of their lives together. However these days’ employees change jobs for meagre increments without analysing the long terms career benefits and companies terminate employees for many reasons including individual or company performance or economic reasons! As a manager responsible for the business success, your task is to attract and retain the best talent available in the industry. In other words retain the best and retrain the rest! At the same time individuals have to analyse their career and growth aspirations in the long term and select the best job that meet their requirements. Let us discuss the employment process in little more detail.

Employment process if executed properly will result in selecting the right candidate who will contribute significantly towards the success and growth of the organization for a long time to come! But the biggest stumbling block is lack of preparation. Even though we all know that a good employee can make a big difference to our performance, we take the employment process very lightly and at times delegate the entire responsibility to a subordinate or HR Manager! Generally the following steps are involved in the employment process: Job description, sourcing, screening, interviewing, hiring and on-boarding. Let us discuss each of these steps in detail.

Job Description – a vacancy can arise either due to resignation of an existing employee or creation of new positions based on workforce planning. Specific and accurate description is essential to attract the most suitable candidate for the job! It should explain the job and the type of person most suitable for the job.  A broad statement of the primary duties, responsibilities, qualifications and competencies required to perform successfully in the position.

Sourcing – There are a number of internal and external sources such as employee referral, internal transfer or promotions, company website, advertisements, job portals, placement agencies or head hunters, etc.

Screening – many valuable information about the potential candidate can be found by properly evaluating the resume. Whether the person has the necessary qualifications and experience required for the job, his stability and pattern of job changing, types of companies worked, etc.

Interviewing – interviewing the candidate is the most important step in assessing the suitability of the candidate for the job. As a hiring manager it is your responsibility to ensure that only the most suitable person for the job is selected to avoid potential problems in the future for the company as well as for the candidate. Having a diverse team of interviewers who has a stake in the individual’s performance helps selecting the best candidate.  Thorough preparation is the key to successful interview. Interviewer should ask questions to assess the knowledge and skills, character and personality and attitude and behaviour of the candidates based on the requirements of the job. Common interview mistakes are making snap judgements, doing all the talking, leading the candidate, accepting general answers, relying on memory not notes and making the final decision based on gut feeling. There are many books and articles written on the interviewing process and I do not wish to elaborate further on this topic. Once the interview process is over, doing proper assessment of all the candidates interviewed with the team is essential to select the most suitable candidate for the job.

Hiring – preparing a suitable job offer that attracts the best candidate is the next step. In many organizations there are specified processes towards setting salary; designations etc. yet managers do have discretions to offer the best. Discussing the offer with the candidate before a formal offer is sent is also a good practice followed by many companies. Equally important is doing reference checks to verify the claims made by the candidate and get proper feedback from the previous employers. Some Indian companies also check the horoscope of the candidate to check the suitability, particularly for senior positions.

On boarding – The last stage of the employment process is On Boarding. After the candidate has accepted the offer and the start date has been established it is important to get the candidate off to a productive start. On boarding process can take few weeks or months depending on the position and complexity of the function and has 5 primary stages, each stage providing a foundation for the next. The five stages are:

Induction – This is simply the events that happen before an employee has started.

Welcome – which addresses the employee’s first day in their new position.

Engagement – activities that facilitate an understanding of the resources available to the employee and the expectations surrounding the duties and responsibilities of the position

Productivity – putting into practice the behaviours that enable an employee to contribute to individual, business unit, and corporate goals.

And finally Retention – of key high potential and high performing employees which are the by-product of a well-designed and effectively implemented on-boarding program. It is increasingly evident that the successful On-boarding of a new employee is directly related to the level of involvement of that employee’s Hiring Manager.

An organization’s human resource is its most valuable asset. The employees are the repository of knowledge, skills and abilities that can’t be imitated by the competitors. They are the critical intangibles that make the organization unique in a competitive market place. Equally important for success is having as many engaged employees as possible. An engaged employee is a person who is fully involved in, and enthusiastic about, his or her work. They care about the future of the company and are willing to invest the discretionary effort – exceeding duty’s call – to see that the organization succeeds. Engaged employees believe that they can make a difference in the organizations they work for.

How do you make the employees engaged?  There are many methods but it is the leaders who make all the difference by understanding the drivers of employee engagement and implementing the right strategy to achieve the objectives. Some of the drivers of employee engagement are,

  • Leadership – employees are confident and comfortable working under a dynamic and visionary leadership who follows ethical practices and communicates the objectives and strategy clearly to the entire organization. They should be able to handles issues efficiently, approachable and care for the employees.
  • Immediate Supervisor – level of confidence an employee has in her immediate supervisor in terms of perceived competence, availability for consultation, honest communication and frequency of feedback.
  • Career Advancement – opportunities available in the organization for career advancements that meets the employee’s aspirations.
  • Job Motivation – is achieved when the job is challenging and employees are empowered to achieve the objectives.
  • Learning & Development – for younger generation learning and development opportunities are an important motivating factor. Do the company provide technical and skill development training? Do they support specialised training or higher education?
  • Teamwork – refers to employee’s attitude towards people in the organization and perceived levels of cooperation within and across the work group and divisions.
  • Workload – can the employee achieve the stretched goals of the organization without seriously impacting the work life balance? Both over working and under working are demotivating to employees.
  • Performance Management & Feedback – refers to employee level of understanding, perceived equity and flexibility of the PM system, ability to recognize and reward deserving staff and the level of feedback and communication
  • Rewards – how is the compensation system administered? Is it fair and transparent and takes into consideration complexity of the job, market factors, internal and external equity?
  • Pride–the level of satisfaction and pride for the organization and as a member of the organization.

Next most important factor in ensuring the success of the organization is in minimising attrition, both voluntary and involuntary. Involuntary attrition occurs mostly due to performance reasons and occasional behavioural issues. Following a proper recruitment process can minimise wrong hires and efficient on-boarding programs can improve motivation, engagement and performance thereby reducing attrition levels. Performance problems can occur either due to lack of ability or lack of will to do the job. Ability is based on knowledge and skills. We must do everything possible to provide all assistance to the person in improving the knowledge and skills and adequate time to show the performance. Attitude problems can be addressed through counselling and feedback. Termination decisions should only be taken after every effort to improve performance has not resulted in desired results.

Voluntary attrition could be due to many different reasons.

Job mismatch: The person’s understanding about the job and functions is different from what is asked to perform. Unexpected job responsibilities lead to job dissatisfaction.

Job and person mismatch: Best person for the right job should be our objective, based on individual’s knowledge and skills, attitude and behaviour.

No learning or growth opportunities.

Lack of appreciation

Lack of trust and support from co-workers, seniors and management.

Work life imbalance: Job stress can lead to work life imbalance which ultimately leading to employee leaving the organization.

Compensation: Better compensation packages being offered by other companies may attract employees towards themselves.

Immediate supervisor – generally it is said that “A person joins the organization and leaves the Boss”. A good boss will help the employee to be successful while demanding highest level of performance and commitment.

Certain other visible HR policies of the company could also lead to greater employee engagement or higher attrition.

  • Does the company celebrate success and major events?
  • Does the employee’s family participate in any functions organized by the company?
  • How do you treat long term employees who are sick and unable to function efficiently for an extended period?
  • How do you treat employees who are above 50 years and lost their youthful energy and vigour, fallen sick, lack the current knowledge and skill required to be successful in the function, etc.?
  • Do you discriminate based on gender, religion/cast, language, colour, etc.?

An organization with right technology and products, right policies and practices, efficient and effective visionary management team, modern tools and facilities will attract the best employees. And they all win and become great employees!

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