The Consultant's Desk

The Consultant's Desk
Poring over the details on your behalf

Thursday, September 24, 2009

It's the Little Things You Say

Some employers wonder why they just achieve full diversity in their workplace and then it suddenly collapses when an exodus of five to ten people occurs. The pay is good. The benefits are excellent. The working hours aren't excessive. Work-life balance issues are addressed. There's everything going for the environment. So why are these five to ten people leaving after a year or two? The scenario is repeated year after year, department after department.

Maybe that's the problem. The things that are being held constant but not examined. Undoubtedly, the interviewers are people who have been in the organization for a good amount of time. They've become acculturated. They speak and reflect the culture. That's one of the reasons they were selected to be interviewers. They represent the corporate culture in addition to knowing all of the details about the position and the best fit for it. As interviewers, they don't grill the candidates; they have conversations. They tell anecdotes that are actually open invitations to share information and personality. They relax and begin to spontaneously react to things said by the candidate and then reveal a little more of who they are and why they've been with the company for as long as they have.

There were faux pas during the interviews that the candidate chose not to address or acknowledge. But as time passed, the new employee realized these were not aberrant. These instances are part of the corporate culture and they keep getting repeated in various ways.

Coupled with watching the practices is the listening. The listening started from the moment the phone call reached them for the phone interview and the invitation to come in for a personal interview. The listening was happening as they sat in the reception area and as they made their way through the halls from one office to the next. The listening was happening as they walked into the front doors into the elevator from the commute to the office.

It was the little comments that were made in response to something that was willingly volunteered in order to show how motivated the candidate was. It was an observation that over-reached the situation but simultaneously came crashing down on a particular class of individuals. It was an observation that was basically pandering to some part of the candidate's identity and the observation was completely wrong. They were asked where they expect to see themselves in five years. The honest response was met with a muttered, "Yeah, right." During their tenure with the company, some executive asked them to reserve some time because they wanted to meet with the employee. The employee had been doing the right type of networking and politicking to move into that department and commented to their supervisor that the meeting would hold a lot of opportunity for them. The supervisor's comment was something on the order of, "I doubt it."

One of the things these corporate emigrants realize is that there is no place for them in the higher rungs of the company. They've been there long enough to have watched the various types of personnel who are pushed along and who has been diverted or discouraged from following a particular path. The pattern repeats itself without benefit of gossip nor sniping remarks.

Perhaps there was good follow-up and the candidate was contacted by phone or letter or email. The message was essentially that although the candidate's qualifications and background are exceptional, they simply were not the right fit for the position. Good luck in [your] future endeavors. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Or perhaps there was no follow-up. A person who looks just like everyone else in the company was hired and life just went on. If either of these situations occurred, the candidate who was passed over had little to say aloud. In fact, they may have even forgotten they interviewed at your company. Why? Because of how under-whelmed they were. They were relieved to be out of the way of the sniper shots.

In the alternative, they were hired for some reason. Maybe it was because they are of the ethnicity or gender that was required at that time. But they've reached that exodus threshold and just tendered their resignation. That's when a disappointed at the resignation notice is made and thoughts about losing a worker of that quality are mulled. Where to find more of that type of worker to do exactly the same thing but more of it. After all, that's why they were hired. More importantly, how do you keep them?

"Sam[antha], you're such a great [insert job title]. You're conscientious and hard working. You get things done and don't need a lot of supervision. You're not like the others of your kind. You're an exception. We'd like to keep your kind with us in the family. Is there anything we could do to convince you to stay, to keep doing your exceptional work for us?"

It's about this time the key to the door has been turned and locked. Sam[antha] doesn't need to say anything but will probably respond with, "I don't think so. But thanks."