Thursday, September 07, 2006

Personal Theory on Workplace Loyalty

Recently, I have been thinking about my change, and what has motivated me to leave eBay, and move on to a teaching job at the University of Utah. Putting personal goals of teaching at a major university aside, it all came down to upward mobility, and the uphill struggle it is to move in any company.

Now, I want to preface this by saying I absolutely love eBay, and that I would recommend anyone looking for a job to check them out. The benefits are outstanding, and the environment is still very much like a small business.

That being said, I have noticed that many companies have a glass ceiling for those that come into the company at an hourly wage. It is almost like Middle Management can't see beyond the "Just a CSR" syndrome. As long as you are moving up within that general job description, mobility is fine. But once you try to break out and use other skills you have honed, it takes a long time to get to a salaried position.

At eBay, this is particularly true because of the quality of the CSR pool (for years it was a requirement to have at least 2 years of college). Because most Customer Support representatives are college graduates, it makes the hiring process that much more competitive.

But lately, it has seemed to me at least, that the higer paying jobs are being pulled from outside the company. And when I think about it even more, in any other company that I had worked for, that was the same case. Salaried positions were rarely hired from an internal applicant, unless from another salaried position.

Why is this? The only theory that I have heard that makes sense to me is the "Just a CSR" syndrome. The idea that one can only do what has been previously demonstrated, and therefore can't stretch beyond that point. Opportunities are therefore denied many hourly wage earners, because management doesn't keep in mind the potential that could be tapped based on education or previous work experience. Ultimately the only way to get to the job that you may have as a goal is to get hired on through an outside company, and then come back at that role.

There is a qualifier that needs to be mentioned as well. In my experience in a leadership role, I have seen members of my team basically give up and stop working, and yet they are upset about their inability to advance. This brings up another issue, which is work ethics. These people either get burned once or twice, feel that they are not getting "what's owed to them", and therefore decide to punish the company by no longer performing at their best. Let me make this very clear: That is not the way to advance in any organization. Instead, that dooms a person to eventual termination of employment. If anyone reading this post does this, please stop. You are not hurting the company, you are hurting yourself. Dust yourself off, work as hard as you can, and keep trying to advance at your company or elsewhere.

So, what does all this have to do with company loyalty? It means that instilling loyalty within your hourly employees begins with management. Do you want people to be happy and work hard? Give them something to work for. That means look for talent within your own company, as well as adding new blood and perspectives from outside. The days of 20+ years at one company doesn't have to be a dream from the past... You can keep that talent and experience by looking for opportunities to expand the reach of "just a CSR".

2 comments:

Joseph said...

How that company has survived so long with their biases, I'll never know. I was turned down for a job there many years ago for not having a degree... even though I had trained about half of their staff at the time, at my previous company. And now that I have a 2-year degree in cooking of all things, I'm suddenly qualified for a tech position? What's up with that?

Jeremy Robb said...

You know Joe, I used to think that... Until I had to work with new kids right out of high school. Then I was thankful for that requirement, as it generally guaranteed someone with enough maturity to do the job.

That being said, I wish they had been a bit more flexible in their selection...