Companies evolve and grow (usually, and usually that’s what you want). People don’t always, and that sucks, but keeping somebody who is no longer good for the business is a stupid way to halt the growth of your company.
Firing a non-productive or anti-social (in the destructive sense) member of a team actually increases the team’s productivity by 30 to 40%. That means that on a team size of 4, productivity will stay the same or get better even if you don’t replace them, Yet your payroll drops by a quarter.
On a larger team then you’re making money by getting rid of the bully / degenerate because of the bump to productivity. If they’re at the managerial or executive level your return on investment is even higher. The higher up in an organization the greater their impact, positive or negative.
Cost of a Bad Hire
If that doesn’t convince you then consider the cost of make a bad hire, or keeping them around. It starts at five times their annual salary and goes up from there, depending on their impact within the organization. Up to 27 times.
Too many leaders are afraid to replace, move, or let go somebody they know needs it. Perhaps they’re in a key position. Perhaps they’re a family member (tough one for sure). Perhaps they’re a loyal, long-term employee whose performance has dropped in recent years.
So decide now what’s best for the business and all the people in it. If you can’t do what’s right, maybe the problem is you.
Let the Facts Judge Them
I like John Spence’s approach as outlined in his book “Awesomely Simple“. You’ll need four sheets of paper: On the first one have thee employee write what they believe is expected of them. It’s important that expectations are clear and agreed, and that they have agreed deadlines.
On the second they write what they need (training, staff, support, equipment) to accomplish what they’ve committed to. On the third what their reward should be if they accomplish their goals. On the fourth, what they believe the consequences of failure should be.
The key to this approach is regular (weekly) face-to-face review. Regular review is where accountability happens. We don’t need to judge our employees. Presenting the facts will do that for us.
What Took You So Long?
A common reaction when they finally do get asked to leave? “What took you so long?” Everybody else knows what needs to be done. Why don’t you?
What’s the hardest fire you’ve had to make? Do you have somebody you need to let go but just keep putting it off? Let us know in the comments.
What impact does getting rid of your non-performers have on a team? 30 to 40% increase in productivity.
What are you keeping them around? I don’t know either.
This article “Are You Working With Energizers or Rotten Apples?” is interesting. By measuring somebody’s effect on the relationships within a company you can predict their success. You can predict the success of their projects, promotions, customer relations, and follow-on work.
This means that you can’t afford to try to fix non-performers for very long. Or even just leave them in place. Hire slow and fire fast. It sounds cruel, but the rest of the people in your organization deserve it. Do it for them.
- Hiring too fast
- Firing too slow
- No follow through
- Meet people where they to take them where you want to go
1. Hiring too fast – not having the discipline and forethought to go through some sort of structured process (any structured process) when hiring people. Hiring the wrong person cost the company 5 to 15 times their annual salary. Yes that much. No, your gut is wrong. When you start using a process you’ll figure out how wrong.
Besides paying the wrong person to do work that’s not getting done, there’s the impact to others, your time, the lost opportunities of everybody affected, how it affects your clients and customers, etc.
If you’re in a rush hiring somebody, just remember how much it’s going to cost you later. Pay me now or pay me later.
2. Firing too slow – if they’re the wrong person, they’re the wrong person. Get them out as fast as you can and move on. Yes, sometimes employees with the right behaviours (character, attitude, whatever you want to call it) can be coached, mentored, or transferred into a position that lets them play to their strengths everyday, but only in some cases. Set a six month deadline, then follow through.
(p.s. the most common behaviour you need to interview for? The ability to play well with others. )
3. No follow through – you’ve hired the best person available for the job, and they show up bright, shiny, and eager for their first day of work. This is exciting!
Oops, no desk, no computer, no introductions, no face time with you because you’re too busy putting out the fire-of-the-day? No follow-up, no one-on-one face time with the boss, no performance reviews (except one a year because the company says you have to).
Guess what, Mrs. (or Mr.) Manager: Your Most Important Job is Managing Your People. That means hiring the right people, firing the wrong ones, and give them the feedback, tools, and coaching they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability while you remove obstacles for them. Spend your time doing that, and they can take care of the fire-of-the-day for you. Happy, productive people doing your work. If you can manage that (pun intended) somebody might even promote you.
4. Meet people where they are, take them to where you want to go – This one is a little less intuitive, so I’ll use a metaphor. Imagine you’re running a company, and the (admitted hypothetical) goal is for everybody in the company to run a marathon. Maybe you’re a running shoe company, and this is a great way to promote your brand, get intimate with your customers, network with potential new hires, whatever.
So, you send out an e-mail telling everybody where and when the marathon is. You’ve arranged for media coverage, registrations, and even maybe some prizes for the highest performing employees. All set, right?
Crossing the finish line yourself, you think to yourself what a great event! We’re really going to see some great results from this. Here’s the problem, Mrs. (or Mr. Leader): Not only did you leave most of your people heaving their guts out halfway through the course. Some of them are still tying on their running shoes at the start line. A couple of them couldn’t arrange a ride, and there’s two guys having one last cigarette trying to figure out why the hell they had to get up early on a Saturday morning anyway. Don’t forget the folks that got lost on the way to the race, because they’re still on the clock too.
Your job is to make sure as many people cross the finish line with you. Not to make sure you cross the finish line first. That’s just your ego talking. Meet people where they are to take them where you need them to go. That’s real leadership.
[This rant inspired by HBR’s How to Prevent Hiring Disasters]