Organisations spend time and effort to recruit employees. Human Resource Departments have elaborate recruitment policies and procedures for new hire. Recruiting someone for a vacant position is straightforward. However, retention and talent building part of organisational processes were less obvious.
I reflected on my resignations on two occasions, one in 1991 and another in 2006. I had only two employers over my lifetime of work. Both have strong brand names and I am proud to be associated with.
Pay not the reason
Not all resignations are because of pay. I left Coopers & Lybrand (C&L) in 1991 and joined Temasek Polytechnic (TP) with a 20% pay cut. Pay is important no doubt but not the real reason for my resignation. To make my pay cut less painful to accept, I worked out my annual gross salary against total working hours in a year and compare two figures between C&L and TP before accepting the new job. TP at that time had 42 days of annual leave, significantly more than C&L’s. The pay cut was reduced to 12% from 20%. Some comfort that I did not lose out as much.
In the 90’s, I was fascinated with a book titled “Peter Principle” by Laurence J Peter and Raymond Hull. I recall the principle is that employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence. Employees tend to be given increasing authority until they cannot continue to work competently.
As one gets higher up in an organisational hierarchy with increasing pay, there is less support from senior management to coach and guide you in your work. You are expected to be independent and deliver results. Your same hierarchy colleagues would be less than willing to lend their support. You would be lucky if they did not sabotage your work.
In both organisations, I worked to a level that I saw no possibility of next level promotion and stagnation was feared. Peter Principle loomed large for me. This was my personal assessment though senior management did not say anything. I wish that there could be more openness with regard to career progression, especially at the senior level. This is one aspect of retention policy to strengthen in most organisations.
Mismatch of skills to assignments
One can be strong in some aspects and weak in others when come to harnessing potentials of employees. For example, we know that someone has the gift of the gap, strong in marketing, sales and public relations while another is strong in detailed work but may not be suitable to front the team with external party. If an assignment were given to a person without the pre-requisite skills, the person can become miserable coping with the work.
It was so easy for a supervisor to assign an assignment to someone and the supervisor had thrown the ball into your court. This is a common problem. The trouble is that we cannot choose our work and rejecting it can be negative for our progression in the organisation. I was in that position before and obstacles faced in the assignment seemed insurmountable. The best effort put in was not good enough and someone else could have done the job better. So it is important to pick the best fit between talent of a person and the job. In this way, the person may not feel so hopeless.
Inundated with work
When someone is capable and trusted to deliver results, that person is often given more and more work to complete. For a fixed time period, he may push to complete all works on deadlines. But this cannot go on forever and at some point a burn-out situation can happen.
At some point in my career, my health deteriorated and panic attacks at nights were common. More work was passed on to me without any reduction to my portfolio. There is so much a person can take. If this frustration is bottled up, it can blow up.
I know where I stand in terms of my capacity and capability. There will always be someone better than you. They deserve their promotion and to rejoice about. Moving from Coopers & Lybrand to Temasek Polytechnic was something I did not regret. At least, I got to try out teaching.
Mentoring of staff and talent building require a human touch and constant monitoring. Retention of staff is too important to ignore. It takes years to build up an employee to contribute effectively in an organisation. To lose someone to another organisation is a pity and loss of investment in that person.