What To Do When Good Hires Go Bad

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falling down peopleResearch from Leadership IQ tells us that 46% of new hires will fail within the first 18 months. The research shows that many of these failures were overlooked during the interview process, which brings the topic of new hire failures right up to the door of the HR and recruitment professional.

Increasing levels of new hire failure can indicate that there may be shortcomings in the interview process which may be contributing to the new hire failure issues. If the reality and the perception of a hiring process failure is not dealt with, it can reflect badly on the recruitment team and damage the brand of the recruitment department within the business.

It is vital therefore that recruitment teams have a clear process for dealing with  new hire failures which addresses both the short term need to deal with a potential, resourcing issue and the longer term need to eliminate or at least reduce hiring failures in the recruitment process. And below, I have set out both the short term and long term approaches to resolve this issue.

1. Short Term Fix

If you are approached by a manager within the first week or first month of a new recruit’s tenure and told by the manager that the new recruit is not working out, then its important to try and get a clear understanding of exactly what the employee’s performance failings are. A good tactic is to ask the manager to list the concerns or put them down in writing, as this will more clearly present the problem, which is the first step to finding a solution.

Next, look for the obvious issues, by asking the manager the following questions.

  • Was the candidate made fully aware of their duties during interview, that is did they receive a comprehensive job description?
  • How did the manager assess the candidate’s competency prior to handing the job? Were there any tests?
  • Did the employee receive a team induction and orientation when starting?
  • Was the employee provided with a full job description after starting?
  • Was the employee put on a probationary period and assigned performance and behavioral goals for the probationary period? Or alternately, was the employee assigned 1, 3, or 5 year goals?
  • Has the employee been given an interim probationary review and progress update?
  • What training or support should the employee receive and have they received it?

The answers that you receive from these questions will help to inform your plan of action, of which there several possible scenarios:

For example, if its clear that the manager has failed to implement many of the best practice elements of interviewing, on-boarding and probationary periods/goal setting, you might try to convince the manager that the employee may indeed be salvageable if the right management approach is adopted going forwards. To help convince the hiring manager, you might also want to explain the estimated time and cost to hire for a replacement, as this may help them to see that attempting to rejuvenate the current employee makes better business sense than dismissal.

Of course, if the manager is responding positively to the majority of the questions, then it may be that the employee is not going to work out, but at the very least, and in order to preserve your employer brand, encourage the manager to allow the employee to see out the probationary period, prior to making the decision.

Another option that falls in between the two options above is to ask the manager if there is another more suitable role that the employee may be assigned to.

2. Longer term remedy

The short-term approach mentioned above is designed to help HR deal with the immediate staffing issue, but it does not necessarily prevent the problem from happening again. There are several steps that can be taken to help create a long term remedy to failed hires.

1. Check turnover stats; analyze your current turnover stats for employees? Is this part of a worrying trend that needs further analysis or is it an isolated incident which does not warrant any further action other than monitoring?

2. Exit Interview; if it does warrant further analysis, consider conducting an exit interview with the employee, when they are dismissed, to try and understand what went wrong from the candidates/employees perspective as this may give you additional insight into potential failings in the recruitment process

3. Check your own processes; examine your own recruitment and selection processes to see if you can identify any failings in the assessment process, e.g. should more assessment testing be used?

Final Analysis

By conducting this review each time a good hire goes bad, you can isolate where exactly the problem was. Was it with the employee, the interview and selection process, or the on-boarding and early stage management process? Or was it a combination of these factors? You can then develop a strategy which addresses the immediate resource needs of the business and also provides a long term fix which helps to develop and improve your talent attraction and retention process and reduce the risk of these recruitment failures occurring again.

By Kazim Ladimeji