Aggrieved employees hot to trot

Bosses warned staff may walk if they're left unfulfilled in their roles.

Workers left unfulfilled by employers failing to deliver don’t wait – they quit.

Wanted: average employee to work for mediocre organisation. Enter a war zone in a futile attempt to reconcile two principals engaged in a drawn-out campaign. Benefits include flexible working hours (you’ll be on call 24/7) and generous superannuation contributions (with which the crooked CEO will later abscond).
The chasm between what job seekers want and what employers are prepared to offer has never been more apparent than in today’s full-employment market. Research from recruitment firm Hudson suggests more than one in two employees are thinking about walking out the door, or are ready to.

Yet they are bumping up against a range of major disconnects in the job-search process, says Gary Lazzarotto, managing director of Hudson Australia/New Zealand.

High levels of "employee promiscuity", the willingness to hop from one job to another, show the balance of power between employers and employees has shifted.

"Employees have more negotiating power and are demanding more from their employers, so if the employer doesn’t deliver, employees are happy to walk," Lazzarotto says.

The latest Hudson 20:20 Series report on Candidate Buying Behaviour also notes that job ads are seriously missing the mark, and not providing nearly enough information for those with itchy feet.

Two of the biggest gripes among job seekers included overselling, or dressing up a dull gig to sound more exciting than it really is, and leaving out vital information such as salary range, the company, and the location, presumably in an effort to attract a wider pool of applicants.

Such strategies have enormous potential to backfire on over-eager employers.

Tereasa Neilson, for instance, says she attended four interviews for jobs she then realised were nothing like described in the ads. It was then she realised that misinformation was a common recruitment tactic.

"It’s so disappointing, because there’s a lot of preparation involved in going into an interview," says Neilson, 33, now in an employee communications co-ordinator’s role in the Sydney CBD. "You customise your CV, your cover letter and your whole approach to a particular employer, but when you find out the job isn’t even in your line of sight. You can find yourself becoming a bit despondent with the process."

Equipped with a postgraduate certificate in marketing, Neilson repeatedly attended interviews for "marketing" positions which she thought were in her league – but turned out to be nothing more than administration jobs with the odd bit of sales tacked on.

"I did invest a year of my time and a considerable amount of money to obtain a higher degree because I wanted work that was going to be satisfying, intellectually stimulating and in line with my longer-term career goals," she explains. "Eventually, I ended up turning it around and interviewing them about what the role really involved, and so often it would be the case that it was nothing like it was described.

"It gets to the point where you’re asking can we really believe what’s written in these advertisements? Is what they’re saying true, or are they once more overselling the position?"

Her frustration ties in with Hudson findings, which reveal a quarter of people surveyed as saying they "could not believe what was written in job ads". Almost two in five reckoned advertised jobs did not always exist, and nearly half said ads "were not specific enough".

"The research suggests it’s only after the interview process that the job seeker starts to recognise the real story; or for the less savvy, the realisation comes after they have commenced the actual job," says Lazzarotto. "Job seekers do not want to feel tricked or deceived – they just want to be given the necessary information to allow them to make an informed decision."

Neilson also relates to findings that the increasing use of the internet for job advertisements, and the relative low cost of placing advertising online, has led job seekers to question whether job ads are genuine.

"We’ve all heard about people going for jobs that don’t exist – you apply and then later hear on the grapevine that the role was already pegged for someone else," says Neilson. "Yet the employer aims to provide the illusion of transparency by holding two or three interviews.

"It’s a challenging enough time when you’re looking for a job, when you’re constantly assessing your own skills and value of your education. You just don’t need to have your time wasted in that way."

Yet Jim Bright, an organisational psychologist and partner in career development company Bright and Associates, says job seekers need to toughen up and learn to play the game.

"There’s been a movement within organisational psychology to say, ‘let’s be adult about this and stop wasting people’s time, by providing a realistic preview of what working within this company, and in this particular job, entails’. In theory that would increase retention, but in practice, it’s a case of, ‘well, who’s going to be the first employer who’s going to lift their skirts and tell it how it really is’?"

Candidates should simply accept that companies will make outlandish claims amid the war for talent and be equally prepared to make big, bold claims that might seem to oversell their capabilities – but are "still typically well within the realm of their own potential".

Of course, there remains whether a particular job is worth exaggerating for. Not so long ago, a candidate might have learned about a potential employer by listening to what a recruiter told them, and eyeing the annual report.
While there is no Australian equivalent of the web company called Vault, which sells information (gathered from extensive employee interviews) on what it is really like to work at certain companies, there are still many other ways to gather "insider information".

Checking out the company website, trawling the online news and tapping one’s networks to locate contacts employed by a particular organisation are all ways to gain valuable information.

But don’t stop there, Bright advises.

"Do everything you can do – even hang out in bars where employees go on a Thursday night to listen to their conversations."

Change triggers

*Financial (63 per cent). Disappointment with current pay is the key factor in looking for better options.

*Career development (58 per cent). Boredom and lack of progression are likely to drive employees to look elsewhere.

*Work/life balance (47 per cent). Employees increasingly seek flexible hours, shorter hours and the ability to work from home.

*Personal circumstances (39 per cent). Employers can maximise retention by offering solutions and flexible options.

*Workplace relationships (35 per cent). People are more likely to leave as a result of poor relationships with direct managers than with colleagues.

*Company reasons (24 per cent). Company strategy, culture and restructuring can be destabilising influences for staff.

Source: Hudson

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