Monday, May 22, 2000

Daily grind


What's in a name?

By JOHN ECKBERG
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The question for old-time employees everywhere is not who is going to be the new hire and what is their experience.

        No, the big question is cleaner than that: When is it time to learn their name? After three hours on the job? Three days on the job? Three weeks on the job? Three months on the job?

        In today's workplace, chances are good that since the new guy might not be around much longer than three months, what's the point of making a commitment like learning his name?

        The one thing employers and co-workers can count on these days is that some employees are going to be on board about as long as it takes to let a cup of coffee get cold.

        At a recent human resources conference at Xavier University, an out-of-town expert on employee retention recalled an executive who hired a guy at a 20 percent premium. The executive felt good about the guy.

        The first day — the first day — on the job, the guy goes to lunch and comes back to announce that he was going to quit. Lunch was with a company executive from down the road, and that company was willing to pay a premium of 30 percent. How's that for loyalty?

Somebody blew it
        No company should be so desperate for a warm body that a prospective employee's commitment to the firm is set on a shelf because they are available and they are experienced.

        Anytime somebody is hired and leaves before the next year is flipped on a couple of dozen desktop calendars, it can only leave the folks who are still at their desks with a feeling that somebody down the line blew it.

        It is only human nature to help out a newcomer, something that sticks with good-natured folks from about the second grade on: Assume the new guy is nice, introduce yourself, cultivate a working relationship and maybe even friendship.

        Even the most callous of co-workers find that the new hire has changed the workplace, if only by degrees. At the minimum, people will eventually be forced to learn the new guy's name. And then they leave.

        When the newcomer heads to another company, the staff at the old workplace are left to ponder the announcement on the company bulletin board, fill up their coffee cup and head back to the cubicle pondering, well, the circle of life, perhaps.

Growth opportunities
        The impact of folks who come and go is that the mostly permanent fixtures — people with a couple of anniversary gifts in a drawer somewhere — are probably going to be less likely to extend an olive branch to any new hire.

        Newer employees are often looking for a situation that offers continual improvement and a challenge, said Kent Friel, general manager at Lee Hecht Harrison, a career management services company based in Woodcliff, N.J., with offices in Kenwood.

        “What companies can do is make sure they're providing opportunities for people to grow professionally,” Mr. Friel said.

        The office, in turn, gets closer to January than April, a few degrees colder, a little less friendly. And that cradle-to-grave relationship once coveted by so many workers and so many companies for so long? Well, that is probably gone for good.

        John Eckberg can be reached at jeckberg@enquirer.com or 768-8386.