Oops! I Hired The Wrong Person

If you’ve been through the expensive, time-consuming, and often stressful process of recruitment, followed by an induction process for your new hire, having them not work out doesn’t bear thinking about.

But it happens, and it needs to be dealt with hands on.

Let’s go through the steps you need to take to deal with the problem.

Step 1- Do your research

Get off-the-record references

A recent client of mine, for whom I was sourcing a temp for confessed he was having problems with another employee, and was trying to decide what to do about her. I suggested having an off-the-record conversation with the previous employer. I offered to do this for him, and what we got was confirmation that they’d had exactly the same issues with this person as my client was having.

If you can have a confidential and honest conversation with a previous employer, use it to find out whether the problem has a history, as this can help you decide what to do next. If it’s not happened previously, it’s more likely you can fix it.

Have a confidante

It’s important to have a sounding board within the office – ideally a senior member of the team, whom you trust. Get a feel for the extent of the problem, the way it’s impacting the rest of the team, and talk out your ideas for tackling things.

Start with an informal chat

You don’t have to dive right into a formal disciplinary process. Remember that you don’t know their side of the story yet. Frustrated as you probably feel, try to go into this with an open mind – your objective here is to keep things friendly, and encourage your new employee to open up. If they feel it’s not a safe space to do that, it won’t be effective

Book an informal catch-up, and ask how things are going. What are they enjoying? Is there anything they’re struggling with? Is there anything you could do to help them settle in? If they volunteer the information, that’s a great place for you to start, without ever having to discuss your concerns about their employment.

Step 2- Make a decision

Identify the problem

Get clear on what’s needed. Does your new employee need more support and training, but have the right attitude? Is it their attitude that’s the problem? Is it their ability – something that can’t be changed?

Don’t delay

If something needs to be done, do it sooner rather than later. Of course, it’s fairer to the employee, who is going to have to find a new position. And for you, you risk the cost to the business of low output, or of dissatisfied clients. You also have a duty to the rest of your team, who will be feeling the effects.

Step 3- Tackle the issue

Do it in person

This isn’t an email conversation, and delivery’s important, so always book a meeting in advance. It should be somewhere private, and give you enough time to discuss things properly and agree a plan.

 Have a two-way discussion

Feedback works both ways, so the meeting needs to be collaborative. Have a list of points to address, and give your employee the chance to give their input on each matter. Ask how they think things can be improved.

Even if the employee is entirely responsible for the problem, blame and direct language won’t help solve things. You want to keep them on-side. Instead of ‘there are so many mistakes in your work’, say ‘we’ve noticed there have been several errors, things that we wouldn’t expect you to have missed.’ It keeps the discussion on the right note, and you’re more likely to get them to cooperate. If they feel backed into a corner, they’re more likely to become defensive.

Put a process in place

Agree a strategy to get things on track if they can be worked around. Highlight the problems, and a solution for each. If their work is poor, can they be trained? If it’s their attitude, can you engage and motivate them? Agree how this will be monitored – for example, through daily or weekly catch-ups.

Targets are important here, too. Set these so that there’s clarity on what success looks like for them. There needs to be something to work towards.

Step 4- Avoid bad hires happening again

Now that you know what the problem is, time to streamline your recruitment process , and identify what could you do differently next time?

  • Was your job advert accurate?
  • Was your induction process adequate?
  • Were your interview questions comprehensive?
  • Do you need to conduct another interview stage, or include a test?
Sam Nicholson
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