Should You Fire That Bad Hire?

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HairIt may seem like the tempting and practical solution, but quickly firing bad hires may not be a sustainable solution when you look at the figures. For example, the typical hiring process using structured interviews and tests is perhaps 50 percent reliable, and that statistic is borne out by a Leadership IQ study which found that 46 percent of new hires fail in the first 18 months.

If you fired all of these so-called “bad hires,” you’d have a turnover rate close to 50 percent — and that would put you in serious trouble. The truth is that, thanks to the fallibility of the hiring process, hardly any new hires will fit hand in glove with their employers.

As a matter of principle, then, employers should focus instead on improving these imperfect new hires, rather than firing them. Below are three processes to help you turn your not-so-perfect newbies into great employees:

1. Leverage Strengths and Compensate for Weaknesses

Don’t let any new hire exit the probationary period without conducting an honest appraisal of their strengths and weaknesses. Are you able to focus their role in a way which plays more to their strengths, making them a more valuable employee? Or can you provide them with developmental tasks and stretch assignments that will enable them to improve their skills, helping them to increase their contributions in the long term?

2. Establish Whether There Is a Lack of Skill or a Lack of Will

Study the new hire carefully and try and keep track of strengths, weaknesses, and examples of both poor and positive performances. You need to gather evidence that will help you understand if you are dealing with a new hire who fails because they lack the proper skills, or because they lack the proper will to succeed.

If the new hire suffers from a lack of skills, you may be able to fix the situation by training the new hire or adjusting their job to suit their abilities. However, lack of will is more complicated and may be harder to address: disengaged employees will not be keen to learn, improve, or perform.

If there is a lack of will, you may need to take more drastic steps, such as redesigning the role in a way that engages the employee. That could effectively mean rehiring the employee to a new role where for which they do have the necessary will. This may seem like a massive commitment, but it could be an even bigger commitment to fire the employee and go through the process of hiring a replacement.

If there is no role for which the new hire shows the appropriate will, you may need to negotiate an exit. Zappos, for example, incentivizes new hires who lack the will to make a go of it by offering them $2,000 to resign in the first 12 weeks.

3. Institute ‘Most-Improved New Hire’ Awards

Don’t just reward high performers: reward those who show improvement by giving a “Most-Improved New Hire” award to new employees who have shown the biggest improvements in skill and performance since joining the company. This award should motivate bad (or imperfect) hires to develop and progress.

Although it makes sense on some occasions to fire bad hires, it is not a sustainable policy, given that bad hires occur so regularly. Rather, employers should seek to develop and improve bad hires, making them into the employees the company wants them to be.

By Kazim Ladimeji