Are You Telling Little White Lies to Get Butts in the Seats?

Lying to job seekers about your culture might get you a warm body-a butt in the seat. That much is true. And if you love onboarding and training lots of new hires, it will also give you something to do and feel productive about every day of the year as they churn through your organization. You may lie to yourself and tell your team that call center employees (or food service workers, or warehouse helpers) just turn over quickly and there’s nothing you can do about it. You may even say that machinists and nuclear engineers and UX designers are in short supply and all just looking for the highest pay and that’s why they’re leaving so soon after you hire them. But you’re not doing yourself any favors if you don’t look in the mirror and figure out what you and your HR team are doing (or not doing) to influence high turnover. Even if your executive leadership hasn’t gotten wise to the cost of each new hire (estimates range from $15,000-45,000 for average employees) then you should be educating them as a strategic HR leader on what you can do to recoup this cost for the organization.  

If we’re honest with ourselves, there are many conditions about our workplaces that we take a decidedly rosy view of, when we go to recruit new employees. It’s like anytime when we’re having new friends over for dinner. We clean up the house, cook up our best recipes, and serve them wine. We decide not to invite our crazy sister to dinner, even though she hangs out at our house almost every day. We don’t show them the basement, where we throw all the stuff we don’t want anyone to see but we don’t have the heart to get rid of. We’re on our best behavior and telling our most entertaining stories. We have an optimistic view of where this relationship can go, and all the things we can do with our new friends to make life fun and rewarding.

We do this when we bring in fresh talent to our organizations too. We don’t put that crazy, outspoken but genius team member on the interview panel because she might be a little too much to handle. The team has been pulling 80-hour weeks for the past six months and there’s no end in sight, but the hiring manager without much subtlety tells them not to advertise that fact to potential new hires. There are people on our team who should have been held accountable, and haven’t-they're holding us back from meeting our goals but no one wants to deal with it. Working conditions and tools are less than ideal, but those challenges aren’t mentioned. There are many more things we hide, lie about and ignore when we’re trying desperately to fill holes on teams that never seem to stay fully staffed.

“But what about the managers?” we in HR say. They’re the ones who don’t train new employees well, don’t hold others accountable, don’t give recognition and feedback (even though we’ve given them the tools and preparation) and fail to foster teamwork. Aren’t they at fault for the turnover? What about the barely acceptable wages our nonprofit, or startup, or low-margin industry is forced to pay? It’s no wonder people are leaving in droves. If only our (pay, benefits, working conditions, managers) were better, our retention would be too.

Before you blame it solely on the managers, read this from Jaclyn Westlake, in The Muse:

…I couldn’t wait to work with eager students as I guided them through the admissions process. I envisioned myself reassuring nervous parents, decorating my first-ever cubicle, and building lasting relationships with my co-workers. Sure, I was a little idealistic, but this was also what the hiring manager told me I would be doing.

When I arrived for my first day of work, I was led to a storage room and handed a phone, a sales script, and a long list of phone numbers and told to start making calls. I didn’t even have a working computer. Turns out, I had inadvertently accepted a job as a cold caller.

https://www.themuse.com/advice/what-you-can-realistically-do-when-your-new-job-catfishes-you

An experience like that isn’t easily forgotten, along with the ill will that goes with it. We can’t tell from this account whether there was any HR or recruiter involvement in the misrepresentation, but just reading about how this new hire’s hopes and excitement were dashed in this bait-and-switch makes my heart skip a beat. The employer brand is seriously damaged by this kind of disastrous misrepresentation, but even the little white lies we tell and the filtered information we release in our less-than-authentic interview processes can damage the chances we will create a successful hire and retained employee.

I’ll be speaking at DisruptHR in Denver soon on the topic of The No Filter Job Interview-I hope you’ll join me and hundreds of my favorite HR pros to hear my recommendations on sharing your real culture to get the right hire. See you there!

Photo credit: Foter.com