Everybody makes bad hires on occasion. According to a CEB study, more than one in five hiring managers say that “20 percent of their team shouldn’t have been hired in the first place.” Similarly, a 2012 CareerBuilder study found that nearly 70 percent of employers said they had made a bad hire in the last year.
Given that the standard candidate assessments available to us are far from perfect, bad hires are understandable — even expected. Because bad hires are inevitable, we not only need a process to avoid them, but we also need a process to deal with bad hires when they do occur. To that end, I offer these three ways to correct any bad hire that has already happened — without firing them.
1. Fix the Hire’s Motivation Levels
A study from Leadership IQ found that 17 percent of new hires fail because they “lack the necessary motivation to excel.” Research informs us that for a job to be truly motivational it needs to provide job holders with a sense of meaningfulness, choice, competence, and progress.
All of this suggests that, in some situations, the job is not meeting the new hire’s motivational expectations, and this is why the hire seems to have been a bad one.
Rather than expecting unmotivated new hires to motivate themselves, employers can hold open, honest discussions with them about how the job could be tweaked to motivate them more. Are new hires feeling stifled? Would they be more motivated if they were more empowered to make decisions in their work? Do they feel that the job lacks purpose and isn’t valued in the company?
There are a number of reasons why a job may fail to motivate a new hire — and, in many instances, the employer can do something to correct this.
2. Give the Hire a Confidence-Boosting Quick Win
Many of us have grown weary of corporate buzzwords like “quick win” and “low-hanging fruit” because these terms are used too often — and inappropriately. That being said, we should not let this skepticism obscure the undeniably confidence-boosting value of a quick win to a new hire. A classic study of AT&T staff found that new hires who made quick wins performed better and were promoted higher a decade later.
It seems that an early quick win can help to establish effective work habits, build confidence, and put new hires on upward trajectories. They are viewed as winners, and more important assignments come across their desks as a result.
Another potential reason for your new hire’s underperformance could be that their sense of confidence hasn’t developed. Why not set them some exciting and challenging, but achievable, short-terms goals? That way, they can quickly show their competence and receive confidence boosts in return. These quick wins could get new hires back on the right track.
3. Bring New Hires in From the Cold
Take a look at your failing new hire and ask yourself if they have become isolated from the group. If so, this could be the cause of some of your new hire problems.
The AT&T study mentioned above found that new hires who worked on stand-alone projects often were more isolated from their colleagues, and they failed to build the necessary relationships to succeed in the long term. They tended to feel less socially connected to the business and less satisfied with their work.
Working in isolation can make it harder for your new hire to onboard, and it can exacerbate problems that hires run into down the line, as they lack the support of their peers when they need it most. If your new hire is socially isolated, you should try to get them involved in more collaborative projects. Doing so may help new hires feel more confident, more connected, and more motivated.