Recruitment and retention at a time of turbulence

We all know about the Great Resignation, but the focus needs to be not just on recruitment and retention, but also on improving and recognising the role of line managers.

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Shot of a CV held by a professional recruiter

It’s a turbulent time out there. Experts continue to warn about the Great Resignation and surveys consistently show that it’s an employees’ market, although with variations depending on sector and role. Payroll provider ADP’s survey out this week shows two-thirds of workers would consider looking for new employment if they were forced unnecessarily to return to the office on a full-time basis. It doesn’t look like good news for the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg.

At the same time employers are under pressure to hire and many have been so anxious to fill vacancies that they have made hasty hiring decisions that they have later regretted. Another poll from recruiter Robert Half shows 46% of senior decision makers believe they have made a bad hire in the past 12 months, with small businesses more likely to feel the impact. Three in five (61%) respondents felt that settling for a candidate whose skills did not match the role requirements was the main component in employing a bad hire, closely followed by rushing the hiring process (56%).

Bad hires can also be due to a poor recruitment process, unclear job descriptions and the like. The problem is that they tend to be expensive for employers because bad hires either require more supervision, make more mistakes or fail to pass their probation period, meaning the hiring process has to start all over again.

Hiring is only one part of the problem, however. Retention is key because it’s not just employers who are making hasty decisions. Another survey shows that many people who have resigned in haste have regretted their decision. The survey of workers in the UK, US, France, Germany, Mexico and Netherlands by HR experts UKG found 43% of people who quit their jobs during the pandemic now admit they were actually better off at their old job. Most quit in haste, taking less than a month to decide to go.

Interestingly, while pay/compensation tops the list of why people have changed jobs in the last two years, fewer than half of all pandemic-era job changers actually received a pay rise at their new position and a fifth took a pay cut.

Outside of pay, the survey noted a significant disconnect between managers and employees about other reasons people resign. When asked why they believed their people quit, managers only correctly named two of the next top five reasons for leaving: poor work-life balance/burnout and lack of career development opportunities. Employees say not feeling valued or like they belonged, frustration with executive leadership and poor company culture were the other top reasons.

Yet many don’t let their manager know about these issues prior to resigning. This is despite HR tending to overestimate significantly how comfortable they think people are about communicating their concerns.  Moreover, only 48% of employees felt like their old boss made an effort to keep them while many managers in the US and UK especially were themselves thinking about resigning. While some of those with regrets boomerang back to their old job – the survey puts that number at nearly one in five of those who left a job during the pandemic – it is clear that more needs to be done when it comes to genuine communication with employees and building trust. Sometimes it can be easier to leave than have a conversation with a manager about what is leading you to consider that possibility. Often it is the relationship with the manager which is the problem.

There need to be more opportunities for employees to highlight these issues and employers need to be able to listen. I’ve certainly been in situations in the past where managers have been the problem and there has been very little listening going on from HR. Their position has been to back the manager to the hilt, presumably because it’s more expensive to lose them than the employee. That’s why exit interviews are a good idea as they show a pattern, but exit interviews, by their very nature, come too late in the game and one often wonders if anything comes of them. Managers’ managers in theory assess their performance, but they are often so far removed from the day to day and only see the bottom line rather than the people issues.

Line managers play a crucial role in an organisation, but often get overlooked. They need more training and support to do their job. And in a more equal structure, there need to be mechanisms for employees to feedback both on potential problems and on potential success. Managers need to be recognised when they get it right and there need to be more opportunities to talk about when they don’t.

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