Monday, March 4, 2013

Hire Slow and Fire Fast – A New Human Resource Management Strategy – Part 2 of 2

Last week’s blog focused on the folly of the “slow hire” concept and debunked the myth that hiring quality talent means being ultra-cautious. This week, let’s explore the “Fire Fast “ idea of the catch phase.

Each hire costs your organization cold, hard, cash – money that comes off the bottom line and if not spent on hiring could be put to better use. The actual costs of hiring and new employee orientation at the very least is several thousand dollars (per person) and may be as much as 1.5 times the employee’s annual salary including benefits.

Make a good hire and this money is well spent. Make a bad hire and you’ve wasted valuable resources. However, in the world of human resources management, good and bad are rarely black and white. The best employee is bound to have some weak spots that must be addressed. Lesser skilled employees (not the best hires in other words) may have amazing potential to learn and grow into the job if they receive good supervision, coaching and training. To avoid the cost of another hire, it is worth an investment by the employer to work with employees who do not begin at the top of the talent pool but who may have the potential to swim closer to the top!

I am a big believer of “hiring for attitude and training for skill”. The attitudes we should look for include: enthusiasm for learning, a willingness to take feedback, an interest in doing better, a hard-work ethic, a sense of humor, a spirit that connects with customers and co-workers. Most of what employers do is not rocket science (apologies to those who actually do rocket science!). Employees should expect (nay, demand), quality orientation, timely feedback, regular supervision, ongoing training and annual performance appraisals. Do these things well and for most employees you will avoid having to dismiss and rehire and start all over again.

A “fast firing” is often euphemistically called a “probationary failure”, implying that it was the new employee who failed. I would however suggest that in many situations, it is the employer who failed on two fronts. First, someone made a bad hiring decision – one that may have been made too quickly. Important steps may have been done shoddily or concerns that arose during interviews or reference checks may have been ignored or minimized. Secondly, the employee’s supervisor or manager may have employed a “trial by fire” type of orientation rather than using a well-organized and long-term approach of coaching and training that could have led to employee success.

Paula J. MacLean is the author of several best-selling human resource books that provide practical advice on how to be a good supervisor and manager. Visit her website at

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