RJPs, ELPs, and other Alphabet Soups (Part 2 in learning to Fish)

Today we’re going to look at one or two of the most powerful tools in an HR executive’s arsenal. I have a hard time seeing these as two totally separate tools. It’s a bit like saying that a flat-head and a phillp’s-head screwdriver are completely different tools. They’re at least from the same family.

An RJP (Realistic Job Preview) is a selection device that you give to a person in the selection process that gives them an idea of the job that they’re trying out for. Many times (and especially so in this job climate), a recruit is really just interested in getting into the job. It’s a paycheck and it represents stability and the ability to provide for their family. That doesn’t mean that they’re not interested in doing a good job for you, but it’s not at the forefront of their mind.

The best RJPs are the ones where you let an employee come in and spend some time with an existing employee, and even let them do the job some. “This job requires the ability to lift 45 pounds over one’s head” doesn’t have quite the impact of actually lifting a customer’s purchase into their car in the August heat. An RJP is designed to give as realistic picture of the job as possible to the potential employee.

However, sometimes it’s just not feasible to have an employee work in the actual situation. A simulation is another possibility. If you’re unable to do that, videos work well, but there are important considerations there. Don’t use actors. Use your employees and let them be as candid as possible. If working in the heat wears on them, have them be truthful about it. You can also use a written RJP, but these should really be reserved as a supplement to another RJP or as a last resort.

A lot of times, companies think that they need to sell the job to an employee. But this attitude can really be counterproductive. When you’re selling a product to a consumer, that’s a different sort of relationship that you’re forging. The power differential isn’t in the same direction, so you need to make things look a little brighter and shinier than they might be. When you’re hiring someone for a job, that person needs to know that every day isn’t going to be roses and sunshine.

That’s how an ELP (Expectation Lowering Procedure) works. Researchers took a lead from the RJP literature and designed a study where they gave people a short presentation outlining how a lot of people come into new jobs with unrealistic expectations of how the new job will be. They didn’t give any specific information, just that explanation and some ideas of how one can enter into a new situation and have realistic expectations. The results of the study showed that those people entered into their new job performing better, and over time had significantly lower levels of turnover.

An RJP and an ELP impacts3 major areas and research has shown they’re really powerful in those areas.

  • More trust for the employer – New employees are used to being “sold” on a new job. When you’re honest and up front with them, they appreciate it.
  • Lower long-term turnover rates – When an employee knows what they’re getting into, they’re less likely to leave.
  • Fewer rapid-term turnovers – RJPs allow people to more often self-select out of a new job, that’s why it’s critical that they’re given before an offer is made. After the offer is made, a person may feel unable to leave, or they’ll leave as soon as they realize the job isn’t for them.
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