Job Hopping (in Technical Writing): A Concern

One of the major concerns of today, not restricted to the technical writing community, is job hopping. It does not give a good picture to the remote/parent companies who have set up documentation (or other teams) in India. On an average, it takes a writer atleast an year to get adjusted in an organization, to understand the basic documentation specific requirements of the organization (guidelines, tools, styles, process, etc), and understand the products.

By the time the writers understand the work process, procedure, and start performing on their own, they feel that it is time to move on! This attitude of the employees is very weird, immature, and annoying. Most of the time the reasons cited by the writers for skipping and hopping out of the companies are:

  • Want to write new documents
  • Not a challenging job
  • Designation
  • Promotion
  • Better salary
  • Other reasons
  1. Want to Write New Documents

When the writers cite the reason as wanting to write new documents, the managers are tempted to say, \But you can’t even update an existing document properly, how do you think you can create a new one? By the time the write is capable of taking such responsibilities, and the manager or the team leader plans to allocate responsible projects, the writers decide to leave.

In Reality

All the writers, however experienced they are, have their share of work in updatingdocumentation. Writers get newer documents to write only if new products are launchedby the organization or when the existing product changes drastically. The writers whoare interested in writing only about new products, should either work as freelancers orjoin a documentation company because in both the cases, they get to work with differentclients on varied projects and subjects.

  1. Not a Challenging Job

Many writers complain that they don’t get challenging work to do. Ask them what they want to do and you will realize that most of them don’t even know that they mean by the term challenging or what type of challenging work they want to work on.

In Reality

There are so many tasks that the writers do to make the job interesting and challenging. No one will hand challenging work on a golden platter. First and foremost the technical writers should analyze themselves:

    1. Rate themselves as writers.
      1. Check if they have shown interest in doing challenging or responsible kind ofwork.
      2. Check if they are capable of doing the tasks they are interested in.
      3. Check what they have done to make the work challenging
    2. They have to check if they have tried to do the following:
      1. Gather customer feedback to understand if the documentation is useful tothem.
      2. Improvise the existing documentation by performing usability testing?
      3. Perform GUI reviews and give inputs to the development team?
      4. Work with the marketing, sales, marketing, or human resource in creatingbrochures, internal newsletter, etc.
      5. Have they remotely tried to do any of these? If not, what challenge are they looking for?
  1. Designation

You will find writers with one or two years experience wanting to have the designation of senior writers. I have come across varied expectations of the writers. Some make sense while some are just plain ridiculous. A writer with just five months into this field (and no formal training in technical communication) was reluctant to join as a trainee because according to her, she had 5 months experience. I could not figure out how that experience which was tool focused would help her perform the activities in my team. Also, she was on look out for a “better job” with “more responsibilities”, and a “better salary” in 5 months time after joining an organization. I recruited a fresher instead.

A proof reader with barely three years experience wanted a managerial position because according to him, he was already leading team though his designation was “proof reader”. He had absolutely no idea about the tools used or the documentation development life cycle (DDLC), and the basic concept of technical writing. All he knew were the terms technical review and proofreading. According to him, proofreading was an authoritative job profile because he had to sign off the documentation effort. So he felt that he was actually leading the team of writers though in reality he was not.

In Reality

The IT companies should ensure that there is a certain level of consistency in designations. Human resources managers should ensure that a given designation should not loose its value. It should be tied to appropriate skills, experience, and responsibilities. It is rediculous to offer the designation of Senior Writer after one year expereince or that of a Team Leader after two years experience.

  1.  Promotion

Kissa kursi ka has been an age old story. There has been a fascination and temptation for the mighty chair right from the time of Alexander the Great till date. In the work scenario, it is in the form of promotions. A writer with two years experience want to become a senior writer. Those with 3-4 years experience want to be the team lead. There may be one in thousands who have the capability to take up the responsibilities and have such fast promotions, but that does not mean that all can.

If the question is, “If XYZ can become a team leader, why can’t I? The answer should be short, yet loud and clear, “XYZ has displayed the skills, expertise, and qualities required for a team leader.”

In Reality

After 2-3 years experience, writers move out in search of better pastures, wanting betterhike in salary and a bigger designation. Their two years of experience actually has more value in their current organization because they already know the product and now, they are in a position to take up more responsibilities.

After 4-5 years, in an organization, they would have mastered most of the requirements of the trade, taken up responsible tasks, and handled tricky projects. Moving out for better pastures at that stage may make sense.

  1. Better Salary

If you spend time with people who are ready to hop out and talk to them, you will find that most of the reasons they give are usually not valid. They leave because they probably get a significant raise in salary in the other organization. During the interviews, many writers demand a huge sum because according to them, that is the market value of a writer. Salary seems to be the major fixation for 80% of the writers, specially those who get into the field for the heck of it.

In Reality

The market  figure could be true, but the writers should also take a stock of themselves.They have to figure out if they are good writers capable of writing a few pages that donot require an edit, or are they solely depending on the number years of experience and the tool knowledge to demand their worth. Their worth and expectations should matchwith the actual skill sets expected from a writer of their experience.

  1. Other Reasons

Some of the valid reasons why employees may want to move on are:

    • Mismatch between personal ambitions and company’s mission (or vision). This can be avoided to a certain extent if the screening and selection process is good enough. The candidates hired for a particular project /assignment has to be informaed about the exact responsibilities they will be handling.
    • Lack of motivation—the company is not able to identify and utilize the strengths of the candidate (or vice versa).
    • Lack of opportunities—learning, training, growth, responsibilities, etc.
    • Lack of clarity in terms of future plans, growth, and ambitions.
    • Organizational culture.

Recommendation

These are something you can do to overcome the job hopping related problems.

  • Hire freshers: From a business point of view, unless and until it is absolutely necessary, is it better to hire freshers, train them, and mould them to your needs. It is better than recruiting technical writers with 6 months to 2 years of experience who demand 40-60% hike on their current CTC (cost to company). About 80% of such writers are not even worth to be paid half of what they demand.
  • Weed out non writers: During the interview stage filter out non-writers. Many a times the applicants are those who have failed to get into the world of programming and development. They view technical writing as an easy entry into the organization or land up with a job till they get what they are looking for.
  • Money is not everything: We all work for money. Don’t say that you don’t,  but there are other things apart from money that should be the primary focus. Ensure that you hire writers who display professional behavior and work ethics. Else, Indian technical communicators will loose reliability and chances are that the organizations that are ready to invest in India may not be ready to do so in the near future.
  • Look for the right attitude: Candidates should be made to understand that they should have the right skills, attitude, passion, and productivity at work. Money will follow. They are compensated for doing quality work and delivering the project on time in terms of salary. How well they do it and the other responsibilities they take up become the deciding factor for their appraisal.
  • Consistent designation: The IT companies should ensure that the designations are consistent. Certain aspects like work profile, level of experience, responsibilities, skills, and maturity, should be attached to each designation. By giving a designation of team leader to a person with 2-3 years experience, we are responsible for raising their expectations.
  • Hire the right person: Hiring managers should be aware that filling up a position is important, but getting the right person with the right skills for the right renumeration is equally important. We all know that the biggest enemy of any hiring manager is another hiring manager who is ready to offer a bigger pay packet, higher position, or more perks to a candidate. What the second hiring manager may not try to check, is if the candidate is really worthy of it.

If a candidate is performing well, has a good job profile, and is happy with work, there should be a genuine reason for leaving that organization. If the matter is only about salary, it is understandable. But the hiring managers should also check if they can provide a similar working condition, work, and/or responsibilities to the candidate. Usually after the honeymoon period, when the reality of the work and working conditions sink in, the salary spirit wears off.

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2 Responses

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  2. Glad to kmow that this information helped you. Hope it helps others too 🙂

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