The New World of Employee Responsibilities: A Guideline of Expectations

The world is now broken down into two groups of people: those who are employed and those who used to be employed. Due to economic circumstances, the vast majority of those who are employed are concerned about the stability of their positions. Most of those who are unemployed would like to get back to work in one way or another and are making all sorts of attempts to do so. Few are getting any real traction. They might have irons in the fire, but until you have an offer letter, you have nothing. According to a recent article published, I believe, in the Wall Street Journal, nothing happens to the economy until the first missile hits Baghdad because the threat of war is far more frightening than its reality. Make no mistake. We will go to war and probably sooner than later. Sadly, business leaders are paralyzed and will probably do nothing until the war is either well under way or winding down. The purpose of this rant is as follows: when the economy changes and those who wish to get back to work do so, they will have to do it with a very different attitude, and a commitment to excel. Passion, purpose to task, and an unwavering commitment to do what is best for the company must be the new mantra, because nothing will be a greater threat to success than a “business as usual” mentality. The first ones back will be the pioneers; the chosen ones whose primary task is to rebuild an economy that is, currently, the metaphorical equivalent of a car wreck and as such needs all of the support, dedication, and commitment to excellence its new employees can muster. This is where HR, working closely with recruiting, comes into the picture. Not only is it necessary for recruiters to look at candidate experience (so often a frightfully overrated tool of measurement), but even more importantly, we must develop an ability to seek out and identify candidates that personify the following:

  • Integrity
  • Teamwork
  • Commitment
  • Work ethic

This “new view,” as I call it, is every bit as important, if not more so, than the usual review of skill sets, experience, and the “right college.” It also must be held up for close consideration and executed properly, because repairing the economy is everyone’s responsibility, and it starts and ends with each new candidate we decide to hire. In a new employee/employer relationship, each party is responsible to the other and expectations exist on both sides. One problem is that those expectations are seldom spelled out in any great detail because we have become too sophisticated to think we need such a basic understanding. I say, we do. We must begin again with a clear understanding of expectations. Much will be asked of the next wave of candidates who finally obtain the status of employee. Some people say that loyalty is dead. That is absurd. Loyalty is as loyalty does, but someone needs to make the first move towards creating trust and spelling our expectations. This of course starts with hiring the right employees. But assuming that this is executed correctly, let us look at the following eight tenets that each new employee should be given to understand:

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  • A great work ethic. Gone are the days of working at 60% efficiency. When you find a new position, you owe it to the people that pay you to work hard and to work smart. There is no room for waste, and if you can’t meet their standards or requirements, let the company find someone who will.
  • Spend the company’s money as though it were your own. As the world gets back to work, there will not be tons of money to be spent on fancy entertaining, collateral material, or the latest cell phone that is also a camera, a television, a DVD player, and an iron lung all in one. The rule of thumb for spending the company’s money is simple: If you do not need it to do your job effectively, do not buy it. I can assure you that people will be far more impressed with how you utilize scarce resources rather than the extravagant items you managed to purchase.
  • Utilize politics very carefully. Once again, the rule is simple; politics are utilized only to achieve what is best for the company (as an aside, what is best for the company is usually what is best for its employees as well). Do not utilize politics for what is best for you or to collect or pay back favors and blame human nature for your odious behavior. Human nature is not the culprit. Lack of commitment, a poor value system, and lack of integrity are where the blame lies.
  • Do not cover, uncover! In politics as well as business, many people cover problems, yet few have enough courage to play the role of uncovering them. Problems that are covered up have a way of festering and causing more damage in the long run than simply correcting them in the short. If you make a mistake, see others make a mistake, can’t do what is expected of you, or are simply overwhelmed with the work, let someone know. Shout out and ask for help. You will be admired for your courage, feel better about yourself, and be a part of the solution all at the same time.
  • Be a salesperson. Like it or not, all of us are in sales in one way or another. All of us know people, have connections, and can, in one way or another, make something happen. Generating revenue is everyone’s responsibility. For example, If there is any conceivable way you can create introductions that might, in any way, shape or form lead to a sale, I suggest that you do it. It is your company, your future, and your responsibility. Layoffs occur for a host of different reasons but lack of revenue is the most common culprit. Do anything you can to help bring in revenue; the job you save may be your own.
  • Communicate. Conveying information is a strange phenomenon. If you do not share it with others, its value very often tends to decrease (if the recession has not demonstrated this, nothing ever will). There is no job security in being the only person that knows something. That is a silly notion, born out of truly dysfunctional organizations. Sharing information strengthens the entire organization while doing nothing to dilute the person that provided it. It helps people to think, create, understand, dream, and very often, to do. Information is power. I suggest that you share it with your teammates.
  • Champion the company. Many years ago, “Made in Japan” conjured up a notion of inferior products. That was a long time ago. Today, that phrase lets you know that you are buying high quality goods. The story of how Japan turned things around is too long and deep to delve into, but suffice to say they did a great job of achieving it in a relatively short time. In the mid-1980s, I was involved as a consultant to two American offices of Japanese companies, and I tell you this for a fact: the culture was that of pride, sacrifice, and honor. Employees always went the extra mile to see that the job was done right. They were always willing to stay a few minutes longer to see that tomorrow would arrive in a manner that was as problem free as possible. There was no sense of entitlement. They did not feel that the world owed them a living. The employees I met with felt as though they were privileged to be working for a good company and looked for ways to go above and beyond in their contribution. I don’t know about you, but this is not what I see in most American companies. Perhaps their attitude is something we might want to pick up.
  • Assume responsibility. There is an old saying; “Success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan.” The act of assuming responsibility is a great step towards success. Assuming responsibility for an entire project, a small part, or anything in between makes a statement about the person and enhances the chance for success for every reason from pride of ownership to bragging rights. Give it a try, it is a great way to make your mark, gain visibility and support the organization’s endeavors.

I am sure there are other things new employees can do to turn the economy around, but the specifics are less important than the spirit of cooperation, the commitment to give one hundred percent, and the understanding that anything worth doing is worth doing well. It’s up to those of us in HR and recruiting to clearly communicate this message and ensure that those we hire are willing and able to step up to this challenge.

Howard Adamsky has been recruiting since 1985 and is still alive to talk about it. A consultant, writer, public speaker, and educator, he works with organizations to support their efforts to build great companies and coaches others on how to do the same. He has over 20 years' experience in identifying, developing, and implementing effective solutions for organizations struggling to recruit and retain top talent. An internationally published author, he is a regular contributor to ERE Media, a member of the Human Capital Institute's Small and Mid-Sized business panel, a Certified Internet Recruiter, and rides one of the largest production motorcycles ever built. His book, Hiring and Retaining Top IT Professionals/The Guide for Savvy Hiring Managers and Job Hunters Alike (Osborne McGraw-Hill) is in local bookstores and available online. He is also working on his second book, The 25 New Rules for Today's Recruiting Professional. See twitter.com/howardadamsky if you are so inclined for the occasional tweet. Email him at H.adamsky@comcast.net

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