Monthly Archives: March 2007
In my search for my less-than-ideal job here in Spain, I’ve come across companies that don’t have a HR department, and the ones that do, don’t adequately use their resources to recruit new candidates. Most of the interviews I’ve been to at both small and large corporations are deficient in orderliness, and people who aren’t nearly prepared for interviewing have performed many of them. I’ve encountered interviewers who seem to ask questions from the top of their heads, happen to go over the resume in front of me making obvious that they haven’t looked at it in detail in advance, and they also seem to inquire about issues that aren’t relevant to the job and most of which would be illegal in the States. Being my field of expertise I can ascertain that the importance of a HR department and of people who are trained to interview and recruit applicants is essential to the success of any organization be it small or big, so sometimes I find hard to believe the informality that characterize many companies when it comes to handling its scarce resources.
As another example, I’ve gone to interviews where they have asked me to describe and rate myself on certain aspects, but in addition to those subjective questions I haven’t seen any other standard measures that would allow an interviewer to actually compare potential employees. I know what employers are looking for and the answers they want to hear on interviews, and for anyone who has this information and even for someone who just uses commonsense, it would be easy to lie during the interview not because the candidate is a liar or cheater, but because the competition is fierce in the employment market and we all want the kinds of job that are in short supply.
One of the interviewers I met with, and who also happened to be owner of a medium-size corporation, told me that he liked my professional profile but that he didn’t like my age. He said young people tend to have less clear objectives and that they tend not to last within the organization. Aside from stereotyping and making discriminatory remarks, he furthermore said that during interviews these candidates would say something about themselves and then they would show different behaviors on the job, but of course he hasn’t thought about the fact that his people are asking applicants to rate themselves during interviews when interviewers should be the ones rating and evaluating candidates. Moreover they’re not asking the kinds of questions that could reveal the true personality of potential employees, but rather those that are for the most part irrelevant to the position in matter.
The most relevant problem that comes to mind is the fact that employers want perfect employees, but they are less-than-perfect employers. To begin with and like aforementioned, job interviews oftentimes lack the formality and structure that they should have so that interviewers avoid typical errors and subjectivity. In addition, employers are frequently reluctant to be up-front about their expectations of the job, and as a result, people like me who are potential candidates leave the interview feeling like they don’t have a clear understanding of the job or of what is expected. Moreover, many employers are hesitant about making job offers when they come across a candidate who has a good chance of being successful on the job. They aren’t ready to offer packages that match or beat those presented by competitors or additional perks that can compensate for less-than-ideal salaries and shifts.
For instance, I’ve gone to lots of interviews for positions that were advertised as administrative, and after getting to the interviewing site, I realized that the job they actually offered was completely different from what they had advertised. Have companies thought about the impact that these misleading ads have on applicants and their thoughts of the organization? If you ask me, I’m tired of feeling like these interviews are a total waste of time. These employers make you go to an interview because they refuse to give you the details of the offer such as the salary, the working hours or the job duties in advance, and they also make sure to sell you a position that doesn’t really exist. Of course you don’t know this until you get to the interview. Once there they start talking about the duties you’ll be responsible for only to make you aware that it is nothing like what appeared on the newspaper.
So the workforce is left facing with managers who demand ideal employees and by ideal I don’t simply mean responsible, organized, determined, friendly, enthusiastic, and innovative people, but I mean candidates who are actually willing to take the crappy salaries that employers offer, become accomplices in the unlawful practices that owners and the company might engage into, people who are willing to work 11- or 12-hour shifts without receiving extra payment, applicants who are willing to sign contracts that state they’re earning less money than they actually are so that the corporation can evade its taxes and people who simply fit in whatever employers need from a newly hired individual, and I don’t mean job-related factors but more personality and attitude traits that define whether the employee will put up or not with the company’s not-always-legal way of doing business.
So there comes a point where it doesn’t matter whether you are truly qualified but rather whether you are willing to take the less-than-ideal working conditions in exchange for the less-than-ideal salary that employers offer. As an illustration, take my case for example. I only got a job recently after a long search that I started five months earlier. Considering I’m a graduate student with a BBA in both Management and HR Management and that I graduated summa cum laude, I thought I had a pretty darn good chance of getting a job. I didn’t have high expectations or ambitions because I know I need to work my way up and that it will be a while before I actually find my dreamed job, but I still thought I could get something fairly close to what I was looking for according to my qualifications, experience, talents and abilities. Well, it turns that that wasn’t the case, and I learned that my abilities don’t make me any more attractive over other candidates, at least not in the employment market of which I’m currently a part, and I realized that in spite of what I was taught in college, the reality out here is different.
I literally applied to dozens of jobs and went to quite a few interviews, and I experienced and saw so many things I didn’t like or understand that I can’t even begin to describe them. Based on all this, I can’t help but to highlight what is in my opinion the poor quality of management at most of the companies I’ve been to. These organizations go for an “employees-are-paid-to-do-a-job” approach that fails to consider the motivational aspect of employment. Employers’ attitude comes down to feeling like employees should be thankful that the owners of the company are feeding them when in reality the company would be nothing without its people. So who’s feeding whom?
If you think of it in biological terms, the employee-employer relationship could be compared to a mutualism in which both organisms involved are supposed to benefit, but in reality many of these associations end up being parasitism as employers benefit at the expense of employees. If employers would spend more time wittily thinking about what motivates employees, then there would be a mutual advantage to both. However, the fact remains that employers want committed employees when they are not willing to commit themselves or the company’s resources to their people.
A couple of other examples can be mentioned to reflect this point, and this time I’m talking about true stories that took place in the States. I once worked for a company that had me training for a week, I was to work for them a specific shift and after I made clear to them what my time availability was; they decided to hire me. All of a sudden after a week of training me on the job, they realized that the shift I was doing was not the shift they needed me to do. Then why the hell did they hire me in the first place to work that shift if they needed someone for a different shift I couldn’t even do because of school? That remains a mystery to me, but the worst part is that they didn’t pay me for the 30 hours I worked because they decided the training wasn’t paid. I would understand they do that with someone they’ll be hiring permanently, but with someone they’re kicking on the butt it is kind of unfair. A friend of mine was also hired to work as a salesclerk for a company who on his first day of work told him they didn’t have time to train him. Then why did they bother to interview him, make him wear a uniform and show up to work if they would be then giving him the “F-you” word on his first day on the job? Like I’ve mentioned above commitment is a key factor.
Further issues arise when employees don’t feel like the company honestly cares about them, and although such a thoughtless practice is far from successful when it comes to managing employees, many employers fail to positively an openly interact with its people. The outcome of this is workers who don’t know what they’re supposed to do and what’s expected of them, which at the same time results in poorly committed employees who become dissatisfied and unmotivated and are therefore more likely to take part in unethical activities. All employees have a sense of their own value, so workers who feel like they’re not being fairly rewarded and treated are more prone to trying to balance the scales. Because of this and because employees need to cover their financial needs, employers need to pay more attention to the importance of having a committed workforce that helps the organization succeed.
Both parties need to be committed to each other so that the mutual relation can work. The problem is many employers are not devoted to their people, and they fear employees going to work for competitors in the industry or giving away confidential information. But why would employees want to be loyal to a company that is not loyal to them? What reasons do organizations give to employees so that they want to be faithful to the company? Employees are not committed to the organization not because they can’t be or don’t want to be, but because they feel the company is not committed to them and therefore, they are not motivated to be committed in return.
Consider the case of my sister who works at a real state agency. Her company requires that all employees have a car and a cell phone, but the company is not willing to pay for gas or the telephone bills that employees incur in the normal course of business, which doesn’t make any sense to me because the company should provide the employee with the tools they need to work; in this case a car or at least a budget for gas expenses and a company phone or reimbursement for cell phone expenditures in any case, considering these are all work-related. In addition, she has a commission-based position so the base salary is around 500 euros that basically is what she spends on the car payment and insurance, gas, and cell phone while her car keeps depreciating and is about to hit the 20,000 miles in a span of less than a year. Then she earns commissions but only if the office sells, and the percentage they get from a total of a 6000- or 1200-euro commission is less than 1%. How is an employee under these conditions supposed to save or make a decent living, and how does this company support employees’ efforts?
Along the same line, company policy dictates that she is to work extra hours during the weekends in case she needs to show a property but without collecting extra pay or redeeming those hours from her regular shift. So you tell me what sense this makes and what sense of commitment this company displays. The company asks employees to go show properties on their days off if necessary, but then they don’t compensate employees for extra hours worked or allow them to recover those hours from their regular schedule. Why do employees keep working for companies like this? What happens is that these employees can’t afford to quit their jobs because as picky as they may be when it comes to choosing what they’re willing to do for a job, there comes a point where one can’t meet the expense of being unemployed and one ends up taking anything that comes around even if it’s not remotely linked to what one was originally willing to do and even if the working conditions are not slightly close to what is fair and decent.
Although the motivating factors that lead a worker to perform at par on the job depend widely on each person and although they vary from one employee to the other, it is broadly known that people work to obtain something in exchange, and this something comes in the form of compensation and benefits, which have a great impact on employees’ morale, motivation and the quality of their lives. Having a meaningful job, serving customers or simply accomplishing personal goals can be great job motivators for different workers, but at the end of the day work is indeed about the money because it is money what allows employees to pay the rent, their bills, provide for their families and make a living. Therefore, employers who underestimate the importance of compensation and benefits as the basis of a successful business that recruits and retain its people are at fault.
Nevertheless, attracting the best employees is an effort that entails more than average-paying positions. People want more from work than money and even though workers’ needs and wants are highly situational, most employees simply want to feel like they belong to the company and like they are an important part of the company’s mission. Employees usually look for recognition because of their accomplishments and they additionally want a stable job that gives them an opportunity to grow both personally and professionally while they are also able to apply their knowledge on the job for the company’s benefit. Workers need to be provided with timely feedback so that their performance can be accordingly aligned to the company’s goals and purpose. For this reason it is essential that employers focus on what matters to their employees if they are to achieve business success.
As I see it, the bottom line is employers often forget that the most important resource is the human resource because that is what moves the company and keeps it going, and employers can’t make customers happy if they don’t make their employees happy in the first place. What motivation do employees have to sell a product, offer a service or provide customer care if they don’t feel they are cared for by their employers? And the same results are obtained when we think of employees who feel threatened that employers will replace them in the first slight chance they have to recruit “more fit” workers to occupy their positions. Moreover, many employers also underestimate the importance that workers place on such things as a fair salary, flexible working hours and prospects for advancement and career paths within the organization, which are all elements that employees consider when making their decision to join or leave a company.
A good position is not only about having a good job description or a list of job duties that the employee is supposed to perform, but it is about a good working environment and working conditions, which include compensation and benefits. It is about forming employees; training them and making them better prepared for the positions they fill. But when most or all of these elements are absent, then we face employees who need to look out for themselves and they’re therefore always thinking of finding a better position, looking for a better job and simply giving a shot even if it’s long to other opportunities that may pay better results and provide them with a better chance of making a decent living and feeling like they’re cared for.
Because workforce commitment is highly influenced by organizational practices, employers need to participate actively in addressing the company’s issues that are likely to affect the organization’s people in the future. Recruiting and retaining the right employees is a crucial factor, in which training plays the most important role. Workers want to succeed at their jobs, but they can’t if they’re not provided with the necessary tools and skills and with a clear idea of what they’re supposed to do. Employers can’t overlook the fact that people are the most important asset to the organization and for this reason they deserve to be adequately treated, and the necessary resources need to be invested so that a culture of mutual commitment develops within the organization in such a way that the business is ultimately directed to achieving success.
Image by: Davide Guglielmo @ Stock.Xchng