Will Companies Ever Woo Again?
I remember my first “office” job. It was arranged through a temp agency, and I had auditioned for the role for a full two weeks before they practically begged me to come on permanently. I was young and nervous about my abilities. Some of the staff treated me like a “temp” for a very long time. Others welcomed me on board with enthusiasm, upscale dining, and the occasional gift certificate. My services helped keep a top-notch sales team running at peak efficiency, and I loved my job.
Down the street, my good friend was not so lucky. Her college degree had landed her a position with a company of equal size, where she was in charge of promotions and newsletters. Her skill set was wide, and she had the kind of attitude that could bring a kind of happy excitement to any bland environment. Every day they reminded her that there were dozens of others who had wanted her job, and that if she wasn’t fully committed to the company and its ideals, she could go elsewhere.
Is it the industry? It would be easy to say that I had it better because I was working in a niche market with very little competition and a wide open sky of possibilities within my company. There were no pressures to downsize, cut costs, or ramp up productivity (yet). My friend’s industry, however, was dime-a-dozen. Their eyes were on the enemy, watching the every move of the competitor, and rarely focusing on the employees that made it all go. It’s possible that the lack of “wooing” by my friend’s company had more to do with the kind of work being done, and not her personally.
On the same note, I once managed a fast-food restaurant. While I wanted every new employee to feel treasured and welcome, it was necessary to keep a continuing stream of “warm bodies” in the hiring pipeline to guarantee our operations. I was lucky if I could get each new employee a uniform that fit (or had at least been washed) and training was a luxury that only the most promising ever received.
Is it our culture? Some Americans are experiencing less perks than ever (a reduction in maternity leave and bereavement pay), while the India Times discusses a new trend of “heartbreak” leave for employees that have recently broken up with a partner and need time to cry it out. And while some may say that this is taking "perks" to the extreme, it may be another example of how the U.S. has fallen behind other countries in our treatment of some sectors of workers.
Is it the tenure of the employee? It is easy to say that new-hires will get more coddling and appreciation than those that have been around awhile, but this is also becoming a faux pas. Just recently, a close friend accepted a dream job, only to find that the real interviews came “after” he was hired. With no formal training in his new job, the expectations were grossly above his pay scale. Instead of the company trying to encourage him, they continually reminded him of the “perils” of the job, and questioned him time and again if he was making the right decision by working there (all of this within the first week.) It turns out that this was a regular practice of the company, and that they often tried to “psych” out new-hires to see if they were of the rigid material they supposedly needed.
On the other end of the scale, you may see new hires being promised the world. Or maybe that 20+ year employee gets everything he asks for (parking space, extra time off for family activities, etc.) It seems that there is no fast or hard rule for this behavior.
In a society where relationships rarely start out with dating (the style of the movie “Knocked-Up ” isn’t that uncommon), I guess we shouldn’t be surprised to see employees clawing their way into contention for jobs they already have. It saddens me that anyone would be made to feel like less than a person or treated as completely disposable by any employer. We laugh at the "Devil Wears Prada " mentality as a far-fetched exaggeration of the work world, but it does exist.
While there will always be strange anomalies in the workplace that prevent us from ever knowing if we will continue to be courted beyond our “new-hire” status (or at all), it is something that we must consider if we are looking for a long-term company partner. This excellent article by Work Happy Now lays out the rhyme and reason for wooing your employees (in case you didn’t already know that it is a good idea.) And while there are still companies willing to try something new to find and retain good employees, I would personally want something a bit more substantial than a sand volleyball court.
If you are being wooed at a new job (or you’re still in love with your steady, long-term work partner) please let us know! We’d love to hear your stories of company courtship.