Sunday, 30 November 2014

At times the real problem is when employees stay, not when they leave

Organizations habitually concentrate all of their efforts on coming up with new, sound solutions to improve the effectiveness of their employee retention practices. From this point of view, it could be argued that organizations treat their employees as their customers. Since competition in every market has become increasingly harsh, expanding the current clientele has proved to be an extremely tricky feat to perform in practice so that employers have found out that a great part of their efforts should be devoted to the retention of their current customers, too. Similarly, in addition to the struggle aimed at attracting new talents from the external environment, employers have realized that a considerable amount of resources should be used for and directed at retaining the talented individuals the organization already employees.

Inasmuch as not all of the customers are good customers, nonetheless, not all of the employees are good employees. Customers who do not timely meet payments on their orders, for instance, are not good customers, never mind those who do not pay for the goods or services they order at all. Likewise, individuals who do not behave as expected by their employer or do not perform at the standard desired by this are not good employees. Businesses should hence devote close, careful attention to the employees who stay with the organization. At times, especially in those organizations in which reward is based on individual length of service, that is, on the mere circumstance of employees “being still there”, the fact an employee remains with his/her organization might indeed not necessarily represent a good event for the employer.
Irrespective of the circumstances which have accounted for an individual having decided to leave his/her employer, whether this leave is because this is active, determined, focused and, most of all, because this considers his/her competencies and skills valuable and thus marketable. After all, it actually hardly happens that an individual leaves his current organization whether this has not already received a similar or even better offer from a different employer, which provides an evidence of its own accord that the individual really has some qualities. With the exception of those cases in which individuals are very good at selling themselves, it could be hence argued that people who leave a business are habitually individuals who perform at appreciable levels or have the skills and capabilities to potentially perform at significant standards. By contrast, some individuals stay and are by no means supposed to leave their employer because these are well-aware that no other organization in the market would offer them the same reward package as that offered by the present employer.
People who perform any given job since a decade or longer and receive automatic salary increases based on length of service, but have not developed any skills or capabilities over time, would find it particularly difficult to change their employer whilst continuing to receive the same level of pay. In essence, organizations whose reward system is based on length of service ensure to individuals regular pay increases irrespective of their real contribution to the business results. This entails that in such instances individuals attain over time appreciable levels of pay irrespective of their contribution, performance and capabilities. By reason of their relatively considerable income, these people would find it sorely difficult to find a new job enabling these to receive from the outset the same current level of pay elsewhere, unless these have not gained substantial, remarkable abilities, competencies and expertise over time.

The circumstance an individual remains with his/her employer for decades or even till retirement, notwithstanding, has not clearly be seen and perceived as a negative event. On the contrary, this occurrence should be hailed as somewhat of an achievement by the employer, but only and only whether the employee is satisfactorily contributing to the organizational results. Individuals who receive a valuable reward package and regular pay increases from their employer regardless of their efforts and contribution to the organizational output might tend to create somewhat of a comfort zone and would clearly eventually resist any attempt to alter the favourable state of play. The existence of such circumstance can indeed produce remarkable downsides and prove to be counterproductive.

Employees who with the passing of the years have completely lost interest and enthusiasm for their job and pay lip service to the way they perform their daily activities are very unlikely to develop new skills and capabilities; let alone can these help managers to redesign the way the job is done. By contrast, the lack of interest and the insufficiency used when performing their job may potentially account for these individuals losing part of their abilities. It is hardly believable that, once this vicious circle has been triggered, the level of performance and the results yielded by these individuals might be considered as significant by the employer and fulfilling by themselves.
More often than not, in order to prevent conflicts to openly emerge managers tend to avert dealing with this type of employee behaviour. Conflicts, whether evident, should eventually be managed and since it is objectively difficult to tackle such types of problems, managers habitually prefer to overlook such situations. This clearly represents the worst approach: firstly because, openly emerged or not, the conflict is essentially already existing, secondly in that such occurrences can negatively impact the other employees performance and the overall Unit climate.
Inasmuch as these circumstances are undesirable and difficult to manage, adopting the right approach can definitely help managers to effectually deal with these. It is indeed crucially important that managers take appropriate action in that such situations can just risk degenerating and are unlikely to ameliorate with the simple passing of the time. The activities not performed by these people should be otherwise permanently carried out by the other colleagues, with the obvious consequences this will produce for their workload and the overall Unit climate. Yet, other employees efforts notwithstanding, the Unit concerned may risk not yielding the desired result, fact which according to the reward system run within the business may in turn make an impact on the income of all the employees of the Unit.

The first step managers should invariably take is hence that to frankly talk to the individuals concerned, try to find out which the roots of such behaviour are and agree with these the initiatives and actions necessary to let them feel back at ease in the workplace. Apathy amongst employees can be sometimes caused by their discontent with the management decisions, which these may perceive as unfair and biased. In other cases, individuals might (also inadvertently) decide to give up doing their best at work by reason of considering their job monotonous and repetitive or because they have never been offered opportunities for growth. At times, such behaviour can be triggered by the employee perception of the existence of a simultaneous combination of two or more of this type of circumstances.
Openly discussing the reasons behind the employee behaviour can definitely help managers to find out which the origins of such behaviour are and to identify the most appropriate solutions to address the problem. This is not clearly a straightforward objective to attain. Sometimes employees perform below an acceptable standard just because these do not consider it worth making any effort to attain what they receive as a matter of course and take as axiomatic, that is to say their pay. In other cases, the managers’ task is particularly tricky in that, for apparently mundane an activity might be considered to be by the employees concerned, this is absolutely necessary for the Unit to yield the final results. Since the task performed by these employees is truly significant for the business and the attainment of its overall objectives, in this particular instance job design and the employees’ firm and stable involvement should help managers to effectually resolve the issue.
Definitely not an easy task for managers, but turning a blind eye to employee misbehaviour and poor performance will never ever enable these to identify and overcome the problem.
How can reward practises help
In the case of employees deliberately underperforming and misbehaving, despite the management attempt and manifested willingness to mend relations with the individuals concerned and find appropriate solutions, the benefits produced in this sense by the sorting effect can definitely help. Usually used to attract and retain quality individuals from the exogenous context, the sorting effect can be also used to offer more generous reward packages to the company best performers in order to encourage worst and bad performers to either raise their level of contribution or leave the organization. This strategy is indeed likely to work properly when managers have been devolved a considerable degree of latitude to administer the reward budget and a variable pay scheme is in place. By contrast, whether the business reward system is length-of-service-based some individuals may find it pointless to make extra efforts to increase the value of their reward package: the efforts necessary to attain the additional benefit may in fact not be proportionate to its worth. In these instances and according to the circumstances, employers may attempt to reach with the employees concerned an agreement on a severance package.

Reward practices may also prove to be useful to engage employees when these are performing repetitive tasks. Gain-sharing programmes, for instance, may show to be effective to make these individuals perceive the significance of their contribution to the overall organizational outcome. Notwithstanding, every financial reward manoeuvre should preferably be implemented in combination with some other initiatives; clearly explaining to each individual how his/her work fits into the overall business process, for example, should invariably be part of the identified bundle in that of paramount importance.

Constantly involving individuals with the aim of coming up with new and more effective ways of designing and performing their job can definitely help, too. Yet, offering employees, according to their attitudes and behaviour, opportunities for horizontal and vertical growth should be placed high at the top of the line managers’ agenda.
Employers should also seriously consider offering individuals the opportunity to expand their knowledge and continue their education. Such initiatives, even whether employees are performing repetitive tasks, will make individuals understand that their employer really cares about them. The psychological contract has changed over time and for employees the opportunity to extended their education and gain new capabilities and expertise, contributing to make their skills more marketable, really matters and counts.
The managers’ and employers’ task is unquestionably daunting, but whether these should identify the most suitable tools and initiatives, which they can realistically implement to support their quest possibly by bundling them where practicable, the task would show to be easier and the final result definitely a win-win for employers, managers and employees as well.
Longo, R., (2014), At times the real problem is when employees stay, not when they leave; HR Professionals, Milan [online].