From education to employment

10 reasons why ‘Resigners’ feel that way

Have some of your employees walked through your organisation’s door on their first day of work full of (excuse the literature analogy) ‘Great Expectations’, only to find themselves drowning in the verses of ‘Paradise Lost’?

Many new and existing employees simply put up with roles – roles that they absolutely loath. They become ‘Resigners’ – people who just really don’t want to be there, completely demotivated and only endure it for the income it brings.

After going home to their family, friends and partners after their first day at work and asked how it was, those individuals reply: “Awful! nothing like I expected, but, hey, at least it’s a job! Well that is until I can find something better!”

The problem is the: ‘until I can find something better’ solution could take months or even years! And what happens in the meantime?

I see this scenario time and time again when consulting both in the private and public sectors. Some organisation are lucky and only have one or two ‘Resigners’ drifting in their ranks, others literally have droves of them, spreading negativity at every opportunity (at least to those who will listen to them!).

For new employees this happens simply because their ‘great’ expectations of the organisation and of their roles have not been met, expectations that were (wittingly or unwittingly) incorrectly set at the recruitment stage.
These misled individuals can consciously or subconsciously resign from their jobs from day one and, when this state of mind happens, do you think those disenchanted employees will go on to excel at the highest level of performance, or even at the level you are paying them for? Will they exceed your expectations, go that extra mile, be self-motivated and support their colleagues?’

I hear the sound of the buzzer on ‘Family Fortunes’ when the survey said ‘uh- uh’!

Of course this situation of disappointment and detachment can also happen with existing employees whose organisations may have changed dramatically, due to mergers, acquisitions or policy changes.

The power of expectations

Expectations are a very powerful human emotion; they drive our very psyche, motivating us when met, and de-motivating us when not!

Picture the child who does not get the toy they expected at Christmas, the partner who does not get what they expected from a relationship, the consumer who does not get what they expected from a product, the supplier who does not get paid by their customers! Not a pretty picture is it?

These reactions are the same for a new employee who does not go on to receive their expectations of a role; they display the subsequent behaviours of anger, resentment and detachment.

To be more specific, if their expectations of the job itself, the induction, the working practices, the management behaviours and the overall culture and environment, the promised opportunities and finally the development they may have been promised, if some or all of these are out of line with their aspirations, disappointment and de-motivation will quickly set in.

So from an employer’s perspective never underestimate the emotions associated with expectations, or do so at your peril. If you do not deliver your employees ‘assumptions’ that you have either: promised, misled or avoided, you will pay!

And the potential payback?

The 3 key negative impacts that ‘Resigners’ have on your organisation:

   1. The overall business performance is impacted
   2. Managers are constantly having to manage the ‘Resigners’
   3. They want to drag others down with them

They are a burden on your organisation, have cost you (according to latest figures) around £7K to recruit, a few thousand more to induct and train, oh, and you also have to pay them a regular salary for the pleasure of their negativity!

Once you realise your mistakes, and then try and remove these people from your organisation, it will probably cost you a lot more!

The best-case scenario for any organisation is that the ‘disenchanted’ go for lunch on that fateful first day at work and never come back! Anyone experienced that one?

And now the bit that managers won’t want to hear (but have probably guessed by now):

It’s not their fault! It’s yours!

So here are my 10 reasons and the accompanying deadly ‘sins’ that organisations commit during the recruitment and induction processes, those ‘sins’ that leads to a new employee detaching themselves from their jobs and becoming an overnight ‘Resigner’.

1. Was there an up-to-date ‘job description’ fully prepared for the role? including all the measurable ‘key performance indicators’ and was this made available at the interview?

The sin: Not having a job description with the key responsibility areas and their accompanying key performance indications in place – KPIs that are fully measurable and can be clearly understood. If this is not the case, individuals will decide on what ‘good’ looks like based on their own experiences or if they have had no previous experience they will take a guess at it.

For example, imagine asking 10 people (who hadn’t performed these tasks before), to individually clean an office or prepare an impactful presentation, without telling them what the desired outcomes should be and what the measures of success looks like!

Do you think you would have 10 ‘immaculate’ rooms that would fully meet with your expectations? Or a presentation that delivers the correct message to the audience? (There’s that Family Fortunes buzzer again!).

For a simple analogy of how the lack of clear direction impacts, ask yourself why tea and coffee rooms in organisations have signs up saying: When you have finished making your tea or coffee, please put the milk back in the fridge, put the used teaspoons in the washing up bowl, clean the surfaces, etc?

Because people (yes even adults) will (and obliviously do, hence the signs) leave it as they leave it at home! Some good, some not so good and some bad.

Employees need clear guidelines; they want to know what ‘good’ looks like, as well as knowing how their success of a task impacts positively on the organisation in general and helps it to reach its objectives.

Finally, did you go through the job description with them at the interview? Do you explain their responsibilities and how they will be measured, what support they would have in achieving their objectives (and would definitely get)? Nope? Uh, Uh!

2. How and where did you advertise the role? and was it designed to attract the right applicants?

The sin: Not advertising a role in the ‘right’ place, i.e. the wrong advertising medium, and therefore failing to attract the type of people who will fit your culture and ideals.

Another key mistake is wording the advert in a way that misleads and attracts a person for the wrong reasons, for example; great career opportunities, potential for overseas travel, flexible working, etc. Unless of course it is 100% true.

3. Did you tell them the about the downsides of the role or just the good stuff at the interview?

The sin: Holding back on the ‘downsides’ of a role, of which there are always some (occasionally having to work late, or at weekends for stocktaking, etc). The temptation is to let them find these things out for themselves, ease them into it – big mistake. You and your company are setting yourselves up for a mighty great fall.

When I interview trainers in our business I always give them worst case scenarios, for example, you may have to leave home on a Sunday, drive/fly/train to four-five different venues across the UK, Europe or further, stay in three or four hotels, deliver different courses and find yourself in Manchester on a Friday evening when you live in Brighton (about six hours drive away).

You can see it written all over their faces: ‘This is not for me!’ Now, if I didn’t tell them that this scenario does (and probably will) happen until I had them onboard, I could (and more than likely will) have a de-motivated ‘Resigner’ in my business from day one. Who is at fault?

4. Did the individual’s personality and drive fit the culture of the business?

The sin: Not looking at the ‘fit’ of the applicant into your business (square pegs and round holes come to mind).

You need to create a sense of belonging for new employees, so if your organisation is a go-getting, team orientated, highly driven business that works late and regularly socialises outside of the office, you don’t want a wall flower who just wants to get their heads down and get on with the job! Nothing wrong with that in principle, but the reality is that they will not fit in, and they will be alienated very quickly.

And of course the opposite is true, if your organisation is very much a ‘we are here to work, not to have fun’ with strict rules and regulations – the ‘serious’ type of environments! – then don’t employ the go-getting social type.

5. Was the person who will have the day-to-day responsibility of managing this prospective employee (their line manager) fully involved in the recruitment process?

The sin: This is one of my personal pet ‘hates’, when organisations allow HR primarily to run the recruitment process, without fully involving the poor individual who has to manage this person on a day-to-day basis.

Their prospective line managers know exactly what they want (and most importantly what they don’t want) from a new team member. Did you ask them? Did you get them to run through the job description and allow them to update it before advertising the role?

Did they (not you) design a person specification, not just with the measurable skills but also with the personal qualities they would desire? And did you get them to sit in on the interview and take the lead role?

Get any of the above wrong and you have potentially set your line manager up for some sleepless nights!

6. Did you give the person a full induction, not just into their role, but also into their team, their division and the company as a whole?

The sin: Ah, the promised ‘full and proper induction’ did it consist of: here is your desk, there is the bathroom and the water machine, let’s chuck in a bit of health and safety for good measure, and oh if you need me or have any questions, I am in my office!

Not a good welcome for a new employee who probably feels like a ‘fish out of water’. They receive no real sense of ‘belonging’ and ‘support’ from day one (these are normally the ones who go for lunch on that first day, and then run as fast as their little legs will take them).

The induction is your first and most important opportunity to get this person to perform at the highest level, and they will only do that if they feel very quickly a part of not just the team and their division, but also the company. They need to feel valued and to see that you are investing the time and energy in ensuring that early on.

Spend as much time as it takes to get them to understand what the company does, how their role positively impacts on it, and also how their decision making and prioritising impacts on other departments.

7. Did you make promises about promotion opportunities that probably won’t happen?

The sin: The temptation at an interview when asked ‘are there opportunities for promotion’ is to say yes! Even if this is true be very clear about expectations and timescales, if it’s not the case and your organisational structure is very flat with little role movement, then you need to lower their expectations. If that means they wont take the job if offered, then so be it, which is a much better option than setting up a ‘Resigner’ for the future!

8. Did you take ‘the best of a bad bunch’ of applicants?

The sin: When a pair of hands is desperately needed the temptation is to accept the best of a bad bunch of applicants. Don’t! You will pay ten-fold, it is better to wait and muddle through until you find the ‘right’ person.

9. Did you recruit somebody at the wrong level of independence?

The sin: Understanding the level of skill sets you require from a new recruit is paramount, do you want somebody to ‘hit the ground’ running (albeit a few company specific tweaks) or are there certain areas you are prepared to train them in? The higher the level of independence in the role, the higher the salary tends to be.

The lower the level of independence generally means a lower salary, but requires a training programme as part of the induction process, which of course also equates to time and money (but is generally not measured).

Where companies get it wrong is that they expect ‘ground runners’ for a lower salary, the new recruit does not get the training they will require, and will then of course go on to underperform against your misguided expectations. Who is at fault?

10. Did you use the correct management style relevant to their level of independence?

The sin: If you do recruit at a low level of independence then you need a management style that reflects that, i.e. a ‘directional’ style, which means you work very closely with them, tell them what to do, how to do it, answer their questions, make all the decisions. This is what they expect, not just being left to get on with it, and if they are they will quickly become ‘Resigners’.

And of course if you have recruited them at a high level of independence then to a greater degree let them get on with it. So use an ‘ownership’ style which does what it says on the tin, it gives them ownership of the role and more independence.

Telling somebody constantly what to do, when they know what to do, will de-motivate, not telling somebody what to do when they do not know what to do, will also de-motivate.

So is your company a saint or a sinner?

How many of the 10 deadly errors and their accompanying ‘sins’ did you recognise? ‘Sins’ that you may have committed when recruiting in your organisation?

You can cause a state of mental ‘resignation’ in new employees just by getting one wrong, imagine two or even all 10 of them!

What have you now burdened your business with, as well as burdening your managers and their team members? A potential nightmare that possible won’t go away!

When I ask managers why they just don’t get these 10 things right, they say they don’t have the time nor the money. I normally then ask them how much time has it taken to try and manage these de-motivated individuals, how much money have they wasted on recruitment and on-boarding, and how much has it cost them in lack of productivity. To me it is completely illogical that time and money are used as an excuse to breed poor productivity, negativity and de-motivation in any organisation.

Can this disheartened employee be turned around?

This is a question I get asked a lot, and I normally answer it by saying it is possible, but… (I know, there’s always a ‘but’) it depends on firstly how deep the disappointment goes, as in how many promises have been broken and how many of the ‘sins’ have been committed.

Secondly, on whether you are prepared to restore their faith in you and your organisation by implementing everything you originally indicated you would deliver on.

Finally, and most importantly, if they are prepared to forgive and forget their past disappointments and are prepared to change their mindsets and behaviours going forward.

So a lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’!

In my experience the best way forward for both parties is a ‘fresh start’. That could be a ‘fresh start’ in the organisation, or a ‘fresh start’ out of the organisation.

How many organisations get this right?

There are few companies that manage the expectations of their workforce correctly either before, during, or after the recruitment process, but the ones that do have a highly motivated workforce. Their employees, when asked how their first day was, say: “It’s everything I expected and more!”

Do your employees go home and say that? If the answer is no, well what did you expect? But, more importantly, what did they expect?

To summarise:

1. Do not make promises to prospective or existing employees that you cannot or have no intention of keeping.

2. Do not avoid (either intentionally or unintentionally) telling your new and existing employees what they can expect of the role and what you and the business expect of them.

I leave you with one of the passages of John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’, which to me sums up everything discussed in this article (please excuse the old English):

‘United thoughts and counsels, equal hope and hazard in the glorious enterprise, joined with me once, now misery hath joined in equal ruin: into what pit thou seest from what heighth fallen’.

Philip Peters is managing director of Leading National Training, which specialises in workplace preparation for students

Leading National Training has developed a set of management tools, templates, processes, using neuroscience based profiling instruments, and training programmes that ensures your recruitment procedures (before, during and after) the process gets the ‘right’ people into your organisation and avoids the potential ‘Resigners’.

For further information on how we can help your business contact us at [email protected] or telephone +44 (0) 7966 570421

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