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Grievance and Recruitment

Grievance and Recruitment

An examination of unfair labour practice cases referred to the CCMA, shows that a significant proportion come from unsuccessful and disillusioned internal job applicants.

When staff work hard, get good performance reviews, improve their educational levels and work related skills, this usually increases their aspirations. Many employers fail to understand this. They also fail to provide unsuccessful applicants with constructive feedback and pointers on how to improve their chances the next time an opportunity for advancement arises.

If an external candidate is appointed, internal applicants may feel undervalued and perceive that the employer is not loyal to its own staff. If an internal applicant gets the job, there are often perceptions that employment equity considerations or the lack thereof have caused the employer to prefer one applicant above another.

What can be done to reduce or avoid unhappiness and disappointment in the recruitment process?
  • Prior to advertising, do a detailed job analysis. Identify key performance areas (KPAs), key performance indicators (KPIs) and competencies required to succeed in the job.
  • Rate competencies from the most to the least important. Weight them accordingly.
  • Draft the advert to clearly state those competencies.  Also indicate which competencies are essential with the proviso that applicants with limited or no ability in those competencies will in all probability not be shortlisted.
  • The interviewers or panel must decide and achieve consensus on how to rate and test competencies (for example, through questions, past experience, physical application, psychometric testing.
  • Prepare written questions before the interviews so that all candidates are assessed on their responses fairly (i.e. on their answers to the same questions)
  • Try and schedule interviews over the shortest possible time period so that the process is not unduly prolonged.
  • ALL unsuccessful internal applicants should be given formal (face to face) feedback on where their shortcomings lie and how to remedy the situation.
How do you give unsuccessful applicants feedback?
  • Plan the interview considering the specific applicant’s likely reaction to being unsuccessful.
  • Involve the applicant’s immediate superior in formulating and giving support to the career plan to overcome gaps in competencies.
  • Be specific regarding the gaps in competencies – avoid vague feedback.
  • Feedback should ideally be given within 2 weeks of the interview. Long waiting periods lead to unhappy and negative feelings amongst applicants.
  • Do not announce the successful applicant before giving all unsuccessful applicants feedback.
  • If there will be similar vacancies in future, agree a career plan with responsibilities and time frames. If the employee fails to make progress in terms of this plan, it is much easier to explain why he or she has been unsuccessful in subsequent applications. If a similar vacancy is not envisaged for the near future, discuss other career opportunities and again assign responsibilities.
  • Applicants need to know that, although it is in the employer’s interests to train and develop staff, the employee needs to take personal responsibility for his/her career and to identify growth opportunities. The employee must understand that this may mean some personal sacrifice (for example, offering one’s own time to assist a more senior employee with a job or project, part time studies, volunteering for projects and assignments, etc.)
What to do with the serial applicants?

Some employees will apply for any job in the hope that if their application is turned down for the umpteenth time, somebody will feel sorry for them or they can then go the victimisation / discrimination and formal grievance route.

  • Formal records of feedback sessions should be kept for the first few applications with specific and constructive steps noted with time frames.
  • If the employee shows no insight and has done nothing to acquire competencies needed for promotion, then a formal counselling (with the employee’s representative, if appropriate) should clearly spell out that more is required before the application will be seriously considered.
How to motivate a good, but unsuccessful applicant?

Promotion is not automatic after a certain number of years’ service. Even if an applicant is suitable, he or she may not rate as highly as another on competencies and/or in terms of the organisation’s employment equity plan.

  • Be very specific when giving feedback and ensure the applicant’s strengths are also recognised
  • Instead of only focusing on how to close the gaps, also consider how the strengths can be used to enhance the current job and at the same time continue to develop the employee.
  • Give recognition.
  • Encourage the employee to improve his or her competencies in order to enhance their promotion prospects, but do not make promises!
Common mistakes by employers that lead to unrealistic expectations and grievances
  • The employer encourages the employee to apply for a vacancy (creates expectations) but does not tell them they will be one of many applicants.
  • Long delays between the vacancy, advert, interview and outcome.
  • Internal applicants hear about the outcome of a recruitment process via the grapevine or in a standard regret letter.
  • No specific feedback is given.
  • No career path is developed.
Final comment

Use interviews of internal employees as an opportunity to consider their skills and aspirations. Create a learning environment so that even unsuccessful applicants understand their shortcomings and become committed to improve thus creating a win-win scenario.

If you would like to learn more about Handling Complaints and Grievances as well as effective recruitment and our newly updated video based programme, Selecting for Excellence contact Bruniquel and Associates for information here.