How to Maximise Job Retention by Providing Realistic Job Previews?

January 8, 2024 thehrobserver-hrobserver-jobretention

Realistic job previews are important for both prospective employees and organisations. This enables both sides to ensure that it is an appropriate job role and that the responsibilities can be effectively carried out.

Recruiting, selecting, and training new staff requires a significant time investment, so it is frustrating if new employees leave after a short period since it isn’t what they expected. Realistic job previews reduce this risk by managing the new employee’s expectations so that they can make an informed judgment.

What can organisations do?

In some industries, job profiles may be updated regularly to ensure that they meet the organisation’s needs and are in line with internal and external developments. The advantage of this approach is that it allows both parties to have a shared understanding of any new areas that have been included.

Reviewing job profiles is an effective part of a performance process to ensure that both parties can reflect on what worked well over the last year and a discussion around changes for the future. This gives both parties confidence in how the role can continue to contribute to the team and organisation.

Prior to advertising any new roles, the line manager of the respective post should be asked to confirm that it is a fair representation of what the role involves. Talking to people in similar roles can also be useful, as line managers don’t always know all the operational details. Also, consider if there are other stakeholders that should be consulted.

Whilst it isn’t possible for every job, if it is appropriate, it can be very helpful to give an indication of how much time each responsibility or activity is estimated to take. For example, for an academic, the work might be divided into 60% teaching and assessment, 20% administration and 20% research and consultancy. Therefore, this role would not be suitable for candidates who wish to spend most of their time on research.

Consider what type of information might be important to prospective candidates for example, what is the anticipated level of autonomy and are their line management responsibilities. The realistic job preview for professional roles should indicate where the post sits in the organisation structure. Depending on the type of role, you might also want to share information on career paths within the organisation.

The realistic job preview doesn’t end with the development of an appropriate job profile. As part of the selection stage, giving candidates the time to see the department and other people in similar roles is helpful. It is increasingly popular to hold an informal lunch with existing employees to share further and more informal information. The interview panel should make sure that they answer questions about the job role accurately so an informed final decision can be made by both parties.

Can prospective employees also take responsibility for this?

Absolutely, if they feel there is insufficient information or the activities don’t seem aligned with the role title, they can contact the organisation and raise any queries. This may be seen as a positive action by the organisation as it shows that the prospective employee is carrying out their homework and is serious about the role. 

A visit to the organisation also provides useful information to enable candidates to decide if it is the right type of workplace or organisation for them. If this is possible, they should try and find out about the culture; it can be helpful to see how people dress, interact with each other, etc, as well as the specific job role. For some positions, it may be possible for candidates to observe an activity, for example, watching a class being taught or observing a manufacturing procedure.

Of course, it is impossible to list every task that someone might do on a realistic job preview – hence the inclusion of a sentence as “and any other reasonable task requested by your manager”.

In the spirit of continuous improvement, gathering feedback to reflect on the usefulness of the realistic job preview and whether any additional information or opportunities would have added value would be a good idea.

Professor Fiona Robson

Head of Edinburgh Business School and Social Sciences, Heriot-Watt University Dubai

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