By: Amy Matthews

Hire slowly, fire quickly.

This is a saying that has been around for a while, and I always casually toss it at employers like a mantra. In fact, I did this a couple of weeks ago, and the business owner said, “Why?” After some pondering, this is what I told her:

Company culture is important. Every person working at a company needs to be ingrained, immersed, and fully invested in the mission of the business. This unites employees into a team with a common purpose of contributing to the bottom line. Finding employees with basic skills is easy.  Just about everyone these days can work on a computer, send a fax, answer a phone, etc. Data entry is not, after all, rocket science.  Even skilled professional and labor trades know what to do with their skills.  A toilet is a toilet, and Accounts Payable means paying the bills, so any plumber or junior accountant can likely step in and get the job done.

The question is, can they do the job while getting along with their co-workers, applying the company mission to their daily tasks, and overall contributing that intangible “fit” into the organization?

Hiring slowly helps in this area. While interviewing, assess for more than just skill.  Assess for fit — personality, work ethic, integrity.  Whatever those company values are, take your time to ensure the person you are interviewing meets that criteria. What are their long-term goals? Can the company support them? Do they have the education, drive, and experience to jump in and stay awhile? It will be worth waiting an extra day, or week, to bring in the right person.

On the converse side, when you get that “shoulder tap” that tells you something is wrong — listen to it. We are not talking about gross misconduct situations, such as theft or working while intoxicated. We are speaking about that gut feeling (i.e. too many times having to explain the same task that keeps getting messed up, too many warnings for being late, too many chances given because the manager says, “I just know there is potential.”).  Typically, those with potential show it early and fast, and if you are still telling someone how to do their job after 45 days, there is something wrong.  It’s okay to let someone go who isn’t getting it.

Failure to hire well may also lead to a close relationship with the folks at the unemployment office. Many times employers are surprised when the employee they ended up firing (for not being able to figure out the job) is awarded unemployment benefits.  However, this is exactly what unemployment insurance (UI) is for – losing your job through no fault of your own. Failure to train well is not the fault of the employee, it is the fault of the company. The employees who fail to pick up the ball will be awarded UI benefits every time, assuming they are employed long enough to earn it. To that end, if the company senses after 30 -45 days that this person just isn’t cutting it, let them go.  They may not be eligible for UI benefits yet (under that company) and that will help balance the UI cost for the company.

This can be a trial and error process.  Best practice? Make sure your hiring managers know what they are looking for in the position.  Have the person (or persons) this employee will be working with participate in the interview.  Job descriptions should be specific and understandable. Hire for culture, train for skill.  Anyone can read and respond to emails and any skilled tradesman can fix what’s broken, but it takes a special someone to do these things and feel at home within your organization.