Hire Slow, Fire Fast

by Wright On Leadership

Not sure exactly where this phrase came from, but I heard it the other day and it really got me thinking: hire slow, fire fast.

Makes sense, right?

Unfortunately for most of corporate America, we do just the opposite. Instead, pressure is placed on the recruiting process to fill positions as quickly as possible. Our bosses ask the question, “what’s taking so long?” For recruiters, performance metrics like time-to-fill can shift the focus to speed instead of quality if not carefully managed. Work needs to get done and we all feel the pressure of a vacancy. The longer a position is open, the lower our standards for candidates become. In fact, managers are often praised for their decisiveness when they make quick (even if ill-informed) hiring decisions. Approved headcount disappears if managers don’t hire fast enough. This all leads to a “hire fast” mentality.

On the back-end, when someone just isn’t cutting it, our Legal and/or HR departments make it a slow march through hell to actually terminate someone. While employment may be “at will” in some states, it sure doesn’t feel like it when we have a poor performer. Unless there is a policy violation or criminal activity, it’s almost impossible to terminate an employee for performance without a 6-12 month documentation journey.

In the meantime, our businesses suffer and we get way more gray hair than we should.

The lesson for leaders is simple. We should take great care when selecting staff. The interview process is inherently flawed and statistics show that, even with structured interviews (i.e., behavior-based), our ability to predict successful job performance through the interview process alone is a meager 50-60%. In most cases, hiring managers have just an hour or two (at most) of information to make a decision that can make or break a career. Take your time and be sure.

When things aren’t working out, address issues early and often. Give clear, direct, and immediate feedback. Document, document, document. Get your HR/Legal departments involved as quickly as possible to help you work the process. And a special message to senior leadership – if your organization makes it difficult for your managers to deal with poor performers, you can’t possibly hold you them accountable for results. In addition, your top performers see that this is the standard you’ll accept and they become demotivated and disengaged.

This is why this phrase seemed so simple. Intuitively, we know we should take our time to make sure we have the right person for the job. When we have a performance problem, we know we should move quickly to make a change. So hire slow and fire fast.

Makes sense, right?

In the words of Harvey Mackay, “it isn’t the people you fire who make your life miserable, it’s the people you don’t.”

Would love to hear your thoughts.

Until next time, take care.

Brenden

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