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Calvin Husbands, labour management advisor

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There is a joke that someone died and was given tours of heaven and hell before they decided where their soul would reside for eternity. When they toured heaven it was peaceful and sedate; whereas when they toured hell, it was full of activity, excitement and energy. The deceased thought long and hard then told God that even though he always hoped to have a chance to get to heaven, hell seemed so much more fun, so he would choose to go there. On the return to hell, the deceased was shocked to see nothing but gloomy suffering and asked Satan why there was such a stark change in the atmosphere during his tour, to which Satan replied: “That was recruitment day”.

If the title of this article caused you to assume that it is about the last in, first out debate associated with the retrenchments at several Government entities, then perhaps I am also guilty of some creative recruitment. However, that is exactly the point of this article – do we present a more favourable impression of our organisation to our recruits than the reality that is revealed after recruitment?

Managing expectations is vital irrespective of whether it involves potential recruits, employees, customers, the general public, etc. As a provider of employment and products or services, the organisation’s credibility and attractiveness is heavily determined by whether it over promises and under delivers or under promises and over delivers. To use Bajan parlance, promising champagne and delivering mauby leaves the recipient with the feeling that the organisation has not met its end of the bargain. Through their negative responses, for example bad-mouthing the organisation, which is increasingly facilitated by social media, that person might become the employee or customer that you wish you never had.

Conversely, a work environment, product or service that offers or exceeds the promised level of reliability, responsiveness, assurance, tangibles, empathy, excitement, etc., leaves the recipient with the feeling that the organisation has upheld its end of the bargain. Of course, the organisation must remember that such a satisfied recruit, employee, customer or member of the general public will have today’s delivery as tomorrow’s expectation.

An organisation spends valuable time and money recruiting new employees.

Therefore it would be advisable to examine if the organisation constitutes an environment where recruits are encouraged to feel that they have come to the right place, rather than made the wrong choice, like the deceased in the joke. A suitable environment is not the sole purview of the human resources department but is manifested in how the overall organisation functions – recruitment, selection, orientation, training and development, performance management, compensation, grievance handling and discipline, promotion, communications, operations, strategic development, etc. If it is said that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, then by analogy it takes an organisation to develop a recruit.

It can be useful to examine whether your organisation has:

Given a realistic impression of the pros and cons associated with the job and organisation;

Provided a genuine sense of welcome or made the recruit feel like an outsider;

Judged the recruit as someone that can potentially make a contribution or merely as a threat;

Prejudged the recruit according to your first impressions (and/or those of other persons) or gave the recruit a chance to show his character;

Fully informed the recruit of the rules and procedures or left him/her to learn the hard way;

Truly exemplified team work or talked about team work while not really involving the recruit;

Realised that a recruit, no matter how experienced or qualified, faces operational and interpersonal demands in the new role and/or organisation;

Facilitated mentorship and support or allowed the recruit to fully develop institutional and/or sectoral knowledge by trial and error;

Encouraged or failed to dissuade the recruit’s involvement in inappropriate actions or omissions; and

Shown support and empathy due to a recollection of the experience that we had as recruits, or refused to recognise that a recruit might at times face challenges to his confidence and competence.

It is no doubt increasingly challenging for organisations to not only to recruit persons who fit technical and personality requirements, and to maintain an environment that keep those recruits motivated so they can contribute to the organisation’s strategic goals. However, this challenge must be overcome; otherwise those recruits might be asking themselves, “Did my heaven turn into a daily hell?”