Ravi, a highly engaged, hard-working, congenial guy was the ideal employee. He was consistently rewarded at almost all award functions within the organization. Everyone called him ‘the guy’, the one who could always be depended upon, that one ideal employee who could represent the organization in the best light. He was also friendly and worked tirelessly to ensure that he rubbed no one the wrong way.
But one day, Ravi resigned, leaving his managers quite perplexed. The no. 1 employee was walking out the door and no one had any ideas about how to retain him. Ravi, who was known to be the obliging sort was quite unwilling to change his decision despite consistent persuasion. The organisational policy sadly did not allow mid-year corrections to remuneration or incentives and there was no way to change that, even for a special case like Ravi.
This is a classic dilemma most organisations face when ‘one of the best faces’ chooses to quit. A typical aside stemming especially from the Human Resource function of organizations is that the employee must have succumbed to the offer of a much better incentive and has literally jumped ship giving no value to loyalty. Interestingly, a Gallup poll found that 44% of employees would consider taking a job with a different company for a raise of 20% or less. However, even more interestingly, for engaged employees the percentage reduced significantly to 37%. So the idea that employees always leave because they have been offered a fatter package somewhere else is a misnomer. Our Human Resource functions have still not struck upon the ideal way an employee should be off-boarded from the organization. Generally, the moment a resignation is filed, the organization decides whether there is a need to retail the person or whether the employee should be released with due honours for the period spent serving the organization. That is the end of the relationship, however long or short it may have been.
There is now a greater need for introspective insights into organisational deficiencies rather than focusing on the employees’ attraction to greener pastures. People who love their machines, ensure that they are annually maintained beyond regular repairs. Heads of organizations including heads of the Human Resource function within organizations who are responsible for its well-oiled operation should also come together to discuss what measures need to be taken to ensure that employee engagement is maintained and attrition is avoided.
I’m sure many of you would disagree and recall the multiple meetings that top leadership called and which were conducted ‘offsite’ at that expensive resort and how the organisation went above and beyond to ensure the ‘offsite’ was a success. But after such meetings, rare are the souls that come back and issue joint emails to all staff, stating that, they seek feedback on the issues discussed and/or confronted with and intend to include these changes to make the work environment much better. How many of you have actually done that? I believe not that many. The “offsite” meetings often end up being for the privileged within the organizations and are remembered more for the locale, its exotic cuisine and the wonderful time spent socializing rather than the important issues that were on the agenda. Issues that meant reflecting on how the organizational environment could be made better for all its employees by resolving conflicts and deadlocks, recognizing the need for training and development, recognizing the need to increase incentives and recognizing the need to ensure that employees were being treated fairly with reasonable expectations from them in return.
So why did Ravi leave? Ravi who always appeared excited to work there, was engaged and was a promising long term engagement, felt quite disillusions by the inter departmental chaos. Additionally, too much was being demanded from him compared to the key deliverables discussed at the hiring stage, leading to emotional imbalance, work-life imbalance and hectic parleying with both internal and external customers to reach the end goal of the organisation lying heavy on his shoulders.
So how can organisations help employees deal with the demands of both its internal system and the external environment? No one framework can be a ‘fit-all’ model. We need to analyse, measure, restructure and rebuild the organisational model. Whenever I watch a football, soccer, cricket or basketball match it reminds me of how everyone can truly play on a level-playing field. The captain while being the principal guide and team leader ceases to be one when on-field. All that is left of him/her is to then be an equal player and not always the best. This is equally true in warfare, where the Senapati fights actively in the battlefield.
However, when it comes to the corporate battle field, customer facing employees are left to fend for themselves, fighting their own battles and turning into an ‘Obliging Hero’. There are large sacrifices of ego and up-manship at the altar of real teamwork, work companionship and colleague bonding. Differences already exist in terms of perks, salaries and privileges to denote hierarchy within the organisation. But shouldn’t working together trump these differences? Should differences exist in the first place?
Real life starts after we finish our education. Suddenly we find ourselves in a place where we need to take responsibilities, ownership and the burden of action. This is real karma. Earlier people tilled the fields or became blacksmiths or soldiers. Since industrialization, the focus has shifted to creating floor shop operators. And when we realized manufacturing was ‘enough’ and ‘enough was enough’, we felt the need to govern and create serious human laws and the service industry cropped up to create clerks, office assistants and Managers. We have since progressed to an infinite number of professions; some of which, we could not a foreseen in the past for e.g. adornist, image specialist, proof readers, executive assistants and so on and so forth.
In today’s world, even if you are out of a full time job, you are perhaps still an artist or an amateur photographer or a naturist or perhaps a hypnotherapist! Most people in these professions are self-employed and have multiple sources of income to sustain themselves or maybe they haven’t found what they can commit to yet. How does an organisation deal with an employee seeking to follow his/her path of soul-searching? What and how far can the organisation hold hands and be a partner to the soul-searching is a silent question of every leader’s mind. When an organization hires someone, it is the beginning of a relationship. The employee’s managers are directly responsible to the employee’s well being, not just his/her performance. But the role of the care-taker or hand-holder is one that most organizations shun in the name of being professional rather than personal. But the fact is an employee’s professional journey is also a big part of his/her personal journey. Maybe it’s time for decision makers to ask, “What could I have done different, so that Ravi never wanted to leave?”. Maybe we should ask Ravi or maybe just introspect?