The more I work with middle managers, the more complaints I hear about entry level staff. They are not motivated. They just want a paycheck. They don’t listen to my instructions. They can’t read and write. They’ll leave soon anyway. They don’t care. In this article I would like to put these complaints in some perspective and in a future article, I’ll describe what we need to do to get more out of staff at this level.
What is the profile of most entry level workers? Their present job may be their first job out of high school or college. If it’s a second or third job, they may have come from a competitor down the street because you promised them a little more money…or the other job “didn’t work out”. They live with family or friends or have a second job so they can afford to be on their own and perhaps support a family. They may not have squeaky clean backgrounds. The stress level in their lives may be high: finances, health, legal, family, and child care all represent areas of stress in their lives; not unlike the rest of us. They really need the job they have now, for lots of reasons and in proportions equal to the rest of your workforce, they care about their work and want to do a good job.
What kind of work do they do? They cook and clean. Arrange shelter. Find employment. Calm the disturbed child. Reassure the senior citizen approaching the end of life. Teach the person with a disability how to become independent. Provide for the wants of guests. Comfort the person in withdrawal. They work in settings as diverse as hotels, nursing homes, treatment centers and private homes. Some of the work they do is dirty, messy and “disgusting” and at times, dangerous. The truth is, the work of most organizations could not be done without these people. And yet, even though they have the most responsibility, they have the least authority and are at the lowest end of the compensation totem pole. They also have the highest turnover rate in whatever organization they work. Triple digit turnover happens. Rates of over 50% are very common.
What’s it like to be an entry level worker? You work when everyone else goes home. You can earn overtime pay but after while you get tired of not having a life. You don’t get very many training opportunities because everyone assumes that your work is just “common sense”. Plus they are afraid that if you are trained, you’ll leave too soon for the benefit to be apparent. Rarely does anyone acknowledge your work. “Thank you’s” are heard only occasionally. You are promised more money but it never seems to happen. You have lots of contacts with patients, consumers or customers, but no one asks you for your opinion about how best to help them; those judgments are left to the “professionals”.
You may or may not have access to the full story about the people you work with; the professionals say that sharing information is on a “need to know” basis. In short, you are not respected. Your value to the organization is often diminished on a daily basis. You only get attention from your supervisor when you have done something wrong. Rarely do you get objective feedback about your performance; you find out how you are doing at your annual performance appraisal (if you are lucky) or when they are in the process of firing you. Before they give you your final check they’ll say something like, “you should have known better”. In all probability you do not see your supervisor as a source of support. You may in fact distrust your supervisor; studies show that a majority of workers do.
To many who read this article, your response will be “our organization is not like that”. I hope you’re right. But in any case, I’d encourage you to sit down with an entry level staff person during this next week and ask them what their experience is like in your organization and how it could be improved. Truly listen. Take the time. What you hear may surprise you. It could be the first step in repairing the disconnect with the rest of the organization.
In the next article, we’ll talk about what can be done to improve this situation including what some other places have done to develop a satisfied work force, top to bottom.
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