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Selection and recruitment and training are three of the key components of human resource management. For an organization to survive there must be a suitable number of skillful employees able to carry out the day-to-day activities. Being able to attract and retain quality employees is an on going concern for line managers and human resource practitioners in the changing business environment. Pressures for change, new technology, global markets and uncertain economic forecasts are constantly forcing the reassessment of staffing levels and the efficiency required of them. Recent years have seen a change in the employment relationship between organizations and individual employees. Jobs for life are becoming rarer and individuals seek employers who can offer a wider range of opportunities for self motivation. Similarly, the employers are open to providing these opportunities on the understanding that during their employment period, the individuals will remain loyal and hard working in their job. This relationship of needs has led to the idea that a psychological contract exist between employer and employee to fulfill these needs. In this essay I am going to examine the usefulness of selection and recruitment and training to both the individual employee and the organisation and explain the role of the psychological contract in this.
Although introduced in the early 1960's, it was not until the 1990's and the work of Rousseau, that the concept of the psychological contract gained wide recognition. As the ideal of the 'job for life' became less likely, reasons were sought to explain why employees should remain loyal and productive in the workplace. Rousseau defines the psychological contract as being "an individual's beliefs about the terms and conditions of a mutual exchange agreement between that person and another party". It is not a written document but covers a range of expectations of rights and privileges, duties and obligations, which do not form part of a formal agreement but still have an important influence on people's behaviour. As an example, an employee may expect, based on the culture, public view, corporate website etc. that working for a particular employer would be exciting and challenging, not boring and repetitive. The employer may expect all employees to maintain effective and supportive working relationship with other departments in the business. Neither of these points may appear in a job description or contract of employment, but are reasonable expectations.
Selection and Recruitment
Selection and recruitment is concerned with attracting the most suitable applicants for a position and then determining which of these is the best person for the role. However, this is a two-way process because as the employer selects the best applicant, the potential employee is also selecting their favored employer. The 2009 CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) annual survey report found that "seventy-six per cent of respondents mentioned attracting and recruiting key staff to the organization, as the main objective of their resourcing activities". This was seen as more important than assisting the company to achieve it's organisational goals or workforce planning. This indicates the immediate need for organisations to resource effectively. Having the right person in the right place at the right time is essential for an organisation to continue to operate and grow, however an individual with strong skills and a proven track record may have a wide choice of potential employers and securing their services may require greater effort or cost. Torrington and Hall support this by saying that there is "a need to compete effectively in the employment market by recruiting and retaining the best, affordable workforce that is available". The CIPD survey found that the most popular methods of attracting candidates were through advertising either on the corporate website or in local papers, or by using a recruitment agency. The initial step of advertising a vacancy is useful to the potential employee and the employer as it gives the employer an opportunity to set some of the parameters for the psychological contract and the employee is able to interpret these signals and make an early assessment of what working for that organisation may be like.
Once a number of potential applicants have been determined, the most common methods of selection still remain the use of competency based interviews based on a CV (CV stands for "Curriculum Vitae," and it is a document that provides an overview of a person's life and qualifications) or application form. Much has been written to criticize the selection interview both as a tool and a process and these apply to both the individual employee and the organisation. Writers note the increased use of alternative selection techniques in the last thirty years designed to remove the potential bias and subjectivity of the selection interview. These include the use of assessment centers and psychometric testing. Some argue that these methods have a similar degree of subjectivity and may also be liable to ethnic, racial and gender bias. For the organisation, the range of selection tools available to them should make the employment decision easier and more likely to be the correct one. Using psychometric testing provides a level of objectivity not usually achieved during an interview. However, during the interview process, questioning the candidate on areas such as their expectations of their manager, how they view the organisational culture and the fit with their own values help determine the requirements of the psychological contract. For the potential employee, even the setting and procedure of the interview can provide keys as to the way things are done in the organisation. A rigid, formal, bureaucratic selection process can lead an interviewee to assume the working environment may be similar and lead them to deselect themselves from the process. Participating in assessment centers or psychometric testing can be useful for the individual as it may help them become more self aware and allow them to assess themselves against the criteria, potentially leading to better interview success, career alignment and job satisfaction.
With the average cost of filling a staff vacancy being £4,000 without including the costs of turnover when a poor recruitment decision was made, it is essential that the recruitment and selection practices of an organisation are regularly reviewed and evaluated to ensure that the best decisions are being made. However, it should also be noted that managing resourceful employees requires a constant balancing between meeting the human aims of the employee and meeting the strategic and financial needs of the business. This means that the recruitment and selections process is also useful to the potential employees. The setting of the psychological contract begins at the recruitment and selection stage. Implicit promises may be made as early as the job advertisement through the images and values they project and these can be reinforced and built upon during selection
In the simplest sense, training provides the employee with the opportunity to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to do the job. It is, therefore, not just useful to the individual and the organisation, but essential for them to operate. Being trained in how to effectively do one's job may also provide the employee with self satisfaction, self confidence and improved performance. However, this may be insufficient to fulfill the psychological contract for the individual, as the training will be role specific and not designed to improve for example, the employability of the individual.
Indeed, a study conducted by Mullins found that nearly ninety percent of the managerial respondents believed that training takes place to improve individual efficiency and that personal development was a secondary consideration.
It can be said that development rather than training is of more use to both parties in the long term. The individuals expectations of their employer are likely to include "opportunities for personal development and career progression". Whilst these can be seen as being beneficial to the employer in terms of having, for example, higher skill levels within their employees than their current role requires, it is perhaps the fact that an employee's expectation has been fulfilled that is of more use. Fulfilling areas of the psychological contract for the employee means that it is likely that they will repay, for example, demonstrating greater loyalty to the organisation.
Writers such as CIPD and Sloman have found that one of the main areas where the psychological contract is broken is in training where the potential promises of the organisation are not seen as being fulfilled by the employee, leading to feelings of insecurity, frustration and resentment.
The training providers within the organisation tend to be concerned with maximising the individual's contribution to the organisation whereas the trainee seeks to establish how the training can improve not only their job performance and career, but also their personal growth. Recent trends in management development such as action learning sets, facilitated learning and coaching and mentoring, and increased acceptance of concepts such as Continuous Professional Development, the Learning Organisation and Knowledge Management provide the organisation with tools that can achieve both aims.
It has been seen that recruitment and selection and training are essential practices within an organization and are of use to the individual employee as well. This has been shown through relating the processes to the concept of the psychological contract, the unwritten expectations of employers and employees regarding the working relationship. Recruitment and selection provides the first opportunity for the employer to infer what the terms of the psychological contract are to be and the potential employee can choose whether to apply for the job. The terms of the psychological contract are further established during the selection process and once employment has commenced the organization needs to fulfill the terms, with the provision of training and development opportunities being a key tool. From the employees perspective, access to training provides them not only with the skills and knowledge to do their job but an opportunity to develop themselves for future role changes. It has also been shown that failure to provide these opportunities can lead to a perceived violation of the psychological contract from the employee perspective resulting in a withdrawal from their responsibilities to their employer having a direct effect on the organisations performance.
References and Bibliography
- CIPD (2009a). Recruitment, Retention and Turnover. Annual Survey Report. Accessed at: http://www.cipd.co.uk/NR/rdonlyres/41225039-A846-4D2D-9057-E02CDB6BFC0B/0/recruitment_retention_turnover_annual_survey_2009.pdf
- CIPD. (2009b). The psychological contract. Accessed at: http://www.cipd.co.uk/subjects/empreltns/psycntrct/psycontr.htm on 12/03/2010.
- Mullins, L. J. (2007). Management and Organisational Behaviour. (8th ed.) FT Prentice Hall.
- Rousseau, D. M. 1989 "Psychological and implied contracts in organizations" in Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, pages: 121-139.
- Sloman, M. (1999). A Handbook for Training Strategy. Farnham, Surrey: Gower Publishing Ltd.
- Torrington, D. Hall, L. Taylor, S. (2008). Human Resource Management. Harlow: Prentice Hall FT.