Dr. Sharmila Subramanian

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,

~from “As You Like It” byWilliam Shakespeare, spoken by Jaques

Jaques’ life philosophy mirrors the plight of organisations that propose to retain employees to reduce talent loss as well as damages in their exchequer. In a contemporary organisation, men and women are inducted into specific roles(all the men and women are merely players)and they go through career growth (plays many parts) with the passage of time. They have their own reasons for exit like completion of tenure, poor quality of performance, better opportunities elsewhere, and unwillingness to stay. Exits are separations that could be employer-driven, employee sought or mutually consented to. While we talk about employee retention, who’s to be retained is a question that most employers ponder over one who has requisite talent but is as slippery as an eel; one who is dedicated and committed but is fossilized; one who is qualified but is steadfast with ‘my way or highway’; one who is filled with positivity but is a commoner. This article exposes some of the difficulties employers face today in terms of employee retention. These issues at the workplace are more behavioural than technical. And, employers struggle to find a solution. Can we? Let’s voyage!

Mitali, a bank manager finds one of her subordinates, Veena, absent. She finds no leave letter or any message in this regard from Veena. She enquires with others and finds no answer. Finally, she calls Veena. Unfortunately, she has to make several attempts before Veena responds. On asking about her absence, Veena casually says, “I didn’t feel like coming today; I am on leave.” Mitali goes blank on listening to such a blunt response. The next day, she issues a memo to Veena warning her against her irresponsible act. Within two hours, Mitali receives a call from the HQ stating that a new employee called Veena has complained against Mitali for mentally torturing her and that the GM is upset with Mitali. The GM tells

Mitali, “Go soft on the “Gen Z” as they are sensitive, just compromise with the young girl or else she will resign, and remember we have to improve our employee retention figures.” Mitali, with 15 years of work experience, doesn’t see any fault with herself; she is puzzled as to how such an irresponsible employee is being supported by the management in the name of employee retention.

Aniket barges into the GM’s chamber and shouts, “I told the Manager that I won’t visit the plant in this hot summer. I have joined as an HR executive and not as a Labour Officer. If you want, I will proceed on long leave but I won’t go to the plant.” The GM asks Aniket to cool down and relax. He says that he will talk to the manager about it. The manager is enraged. He says, “I won’t accept such behaviour in my department; I shall quit if such people are given to me.” The GM wonders as to how he will retain such employees who are ready to quit at the drop of a hat.

The above two instances are just indicative of several petty issues that threaten employee retention in an organisation today. Under such circumstances, employers keep struggling to find an attitude of belongingness and commitment among employees. The question is should an employee whose attitude is consistently negative towards an organisation be retained? Should an employee who is only concerned about her benefits and has minimal regard for her duties be retained just for the sake of numbers? Should an organisation take no action on an employee who violates the conditions of appointment? These are certain simple questions with difficult answers. And the search takes us to the process of Recruitment & Selection.

As far as the organisations are concerned, presently, the selection process of an employee typically uses a GD/Presentation/Personal Interview. Structured or otherwise, it heavily relies on a single criterion i.e. oral communication. It is also limited by time and face value. Many times the selector’s gut feeling also acts as a deciding factor. These limitations lead to the selection of a candidate who is ‘qualified for the position’, but is ‘not fit to be there’. With many employers dealing with this can of worms, there needs to be a solution.

The solution is not easy but, can be tried at the initial stages of selection. What to look for in an employee? 1- Values, 2- Attitude, 3-Learning Ability, 4-Technical Know-how, 5- Expressions; all these qualities should be positive. A comprehensive mechanism with multiple tests, including psychometric tests and behavioural lab assessment, may serve as solution. For instance, an Assessment Centre can be conducted to evaluate the 5 qualities and map them with the fitment criteria. This may be time-consuming but will surely bring down the anxiety levels of the supervisors and the employers in the long run. Along with this, a psychologist’s feedback could be valuable input to select the right fit.

Let us now check how testing these qualities works. The test of Personal Values can be mapped against the organisational credo. An employee with personal values of integrity, loyalty, gratitude and the like will present better duty-bound behaviour at the workplace. There will be dignity of labour, and the employee will realize the importance of following the process and the protocol.

The test of Attitude will give the organisation employees with a positive mindset- those who believe in themselves as well as have respect for others. These employees can learn to empathize with others when trained. They will be pro-organisation with a willingness to adapt to a variety of situations. Such employees will work with pride.

Organisations are operating in a dynamic environment therefore, it is imperative to test the learning ability of the individuals. Those who are open to unlearning, learning, and re-learning carry the baton forward. Creative thinking and innovation come from such employees. They do not carry an air of arrogance around them; they are humble and value human emotions.

Assessing the current knowledge is a necessity as it tests the job fitment of the employee. This test needs to be integrated with the assessment of attitude to predict job performance. Simulation tests can be of great help in such cases.
Communication skills are to be evaluated minutely to ensure that the selected candidate is expressive enough to match the organisational requirements. The employees who effectively use verbal and meta-communication remain clear, concise, concrete, considerate, and courteous in their expressions. Such employees build organisations, and organisations in turn recognize their contributions. Thus, appropriate selection can play a vital role in creating a pool of employees that the management would like to retain. However, all behavioural issues may not be detected and resolved during the selection. Some residuals may always emerge thereafter.

So after selection, the supervisor may play mischief and awaken the hidden monster. Thus, employers should have a direct check and measure on the new incumbents. A circle communication network works very well to connect with the employees and collect their feedback. For instance, if a top official acts as a mentor, she can easily feed positivity as well as humility among the new employees. Curtailing gossip and loose talk becomes easy if the new entrants have a weekly meeting with the top management. This acts as a forum where “no-nonsense” is tolerated. Thus, the ones with a high degree of impulsiveness will surely learn to control themselves.

Regular training and development programmes can be of great help in mapping and shaping the attitude of employees. Their ability to contribute can be frequently assessed through these programmes. This can ensure a talent pool that is worth retaining. With increasing focus on employee retention, many organisations discount employee misbehaviour as emotional outbursts or mood swings. However, this is an obtrusive error that may harm the organization’s culture and reputation in the long run.

The need for freedom to work, create and communicate is not unnatural. However, ignoring and demeaning others to fulfil one’s own needs is uncalled for. Thus, employee retention is recommended only for those who nurture the organisation with their talent and humility, and not for those whose talent is overshadowed by their irresponsible behaviour. Remember! Organisation is a stage and all the actors (employees) have their entrances and exits. The ones who adorn the stage for a longer duration, and are also applauded are the real Heroes!

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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