Thursday, January 29, 2015

Hiring Travails and Human Nature

One of the things I've been doing with my spare time is working through a pile of candidates to fill an open part time position on our farm. Most farm jobs are not high paying positions, especially in this part of the world, and the type of candidate low paying farm work tends to attact is not the sort of person we are going to feel comfortable employing to work with our horses. For that reason, as well as our personal conviction that those who work with us ought to be able to hold their heads high when somebody asks them what they make, our starting rate of pay is far above the local average and when someone has proved themselves their wages and hours worked can go up considerably from there.

This strategy has yielded excellent results. Most farms measure employee turnover in weeks or months and we measure ours in years. Still, when we have a position to fill, as we do right now, we seem to sift through a pile of resumes and conduct a pile of interviews. In spite of our best efforts at weeding out the chaff several times we've managed to start candidates that seemed very promising on the front end only to have them fizzle out a few weeks, a few days, or even sometimes a few HOURS into the job!

Between candidates, employees and customers I thought I had seen quite a cross section of human nature and behaviour and I have but I recently ran across TWO situations that are still bothering me and that I'm still working through in my head. In essence it's the same story repeated twice so I will repeat it here as a single instance. We had two candidates who seemed like excellent fits for the position right up until I started talking about wages and hours. Both already held part time jobs. Both told me they were looking for more income and more work.  Most people have been very pleasantly surprised when we got to this part of the conversation so imagine my surprise when I saw deep frowns develop on both candidates face. I was so disconcerted that BOTH TIMES this happened I stopped talking and asked if everything was all right. The answer I got...the same answer twice....stunned me. The candidate's both told me that this job could never work out unless we paid cash under the table. If they took the position at the starting wage we offered and worked the hours we wanted and actually reported the we have to if we're going to deduct it as an expense.... their benefits....I assume government benefits but I don't know that for sure....would be clawed back or cancelled.

I've tried to work my way through this and I'm still struggling to relate. I've been taught since I was a child that it was up to me to provide for me and my family AND ALSO to be a good citizen who reports all his income and pays his share....I wish I thought it was fair.....of taxes to the government. If it required working eighty hours a week to get this done then that was my burden to bear. I've done it for extended periods and I can attest that it's not much fun. In my working life I've always contributed far more to the government in taxes than I've ever received back as services. I'm blessed that I've been able to do so but it's also never occurred to me that there was any other way to live one's life.

It's easy to say that these people are lazy degenerates that just don't want to work. That may well be true in some cases but since both were already working I don't think it applies in either of these cases. In fact the underlying emotion I sensed in both these cases was fear tempered by perhaps some shrewdness.....not laziness. I don't know enough about either person's personal story to be able to make further comment without becoming incredibly judgemental so I'm not going to do so. There are certainly plenty of situations out there where I can understand why someone wouldn't want their benefits trimmed back.  Equally there are others that I'm sure would leave me asking some very hard questions. I don't have answers, only questions.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch I've still got a position to fill. Hope everyone is having a great day today.


RuckusButt said...

And therein lies the rub with some instances of social assistance. I do think it is a great and important part of society (but hey, I'm Canadian) but there are problems. There lies a middle zone, for lack of better term, where people can make too much money to continue receiving whatever assistance they are getting BUT the net total compensation is not enough to live on at their current standard of living. It's what makes it so hard for some to get off assistance - staying just below the cut-off is actually advantageous. The jump in salary required to overcome this is usually unrealistic, at least at the start. At least that would be my take on it.

On another note, you have perfectly highlighted one reason why my field (Industrial/ Organizational Psychology) is beneficial. One facet of my expertise is developing selection systems based on job-related criteria and using the best methods to best predict future performance. I have no doubt you guys have a great approach. specially with Melissa's background - I just think it's neat when my work shows up in blogs. My barn also has a hard time finding appropriate barn staff, mostly due to a lack of people with the necessary skills willing to work for minimum wage.

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