By: Roberta Chinsky Matuson
It happens to the best of us. We employ a new hire who we think will be a star only to realize we’ve hired the wrong employee. So what’s an employer to do? The answer depends on the situation.
The Need for Proper Onboarding
Many organizations throw people into their jobs with little thought as to how these they will be assimilated. They expect new hires to show up and become a productive part of the team with little direction.
Take a closer look at your onboarding process. Have you provided this new employee with a new hire orientation in order to be successful in their new role? If not, step back and offer more guidance. You may be able to turn this situation around. If you feel you have properly trained this new employee and things are still not working out, then you must transition this employee out of the organization as soon as it’s feasible.
Knowing When the Fit is Not Right
Perhaps it’s a matter of fit. The employee may have the skills to do the job, but appears to be the wrong fit for the organization. This is likely due to a mismatch with the corporate culture. You could invest in a coach for this person and hope things change. In fact, changing behavior is not an easy thing to do. In many cases, it’s next to impossible. Investing resources in a newly-hired employee who has yet to prove their worth may simply not be prudent.
Workplace expert Simma Lieberman of San Francisco based Simma Lieberman Associates believes it is important to hire for fit before you hire. Lieberman suggests taking a closer look at the characteristics of this person. Do their values align with the values of the organization? “I would hate working in a consensus organization unless it was my organization and then it wouldn’t be a consensus!” says Lieberman. If the person isn’t the right fit, then termination is your best course of action.
Smooth Out Exit Transitions
Too often employers are afraid to confront employees regarding performance issues. Instead, they pray this person will resign, which is rarely how things end. Lieberman believes it is best to have an open and honest discussion with a new employee who appears to be the wrong choice. She suggests talking to the person about observable behavior.
For example, suppose you have a new employee who seems to be out every Friday. Rather than telling them you believe he or she isn’t committed to the job you say, “I have observed that every Friday you have been out sick.” This approach, according to Lieberman, reduces the likelihood of getting into a personal dispute because you are separating the person from the problem.
The response you receive will help determine next steps. If this person is having a daycare situation that can easily be resolved with a different work schedule, then you can move forward together. If it’s obvious this person is not fully invested in his or her new job, then a parting of the ways will be necessary. Whatever you decide to do next, Lieberman urges employers to document the conversation in case the matter comes up again.
One of the top reasons employees sue their former employers is because they feel they have been treated unfairly. Lawsuits can be expensive for employers, regardless of the outcome. “As it relates to justifying a termination, small business owners and managers should maintain a consistent and accurate performance review process and document employee performance problems at the time of the problem,” advises Attorney Jonathan Kane of Northampton, Mass. Based Fierst, Pucci & Kane LLP.
“The one common mistake I see is the ‘surprise' employee termination. Employers often do not communicate on-going concerns to employees, and those that do give performance reviews often make them brief and positive,” says Kane. Like Lieberman, he urges employers to document problems when they occur. Even if the employee is in their probationary period.
Terminations During Probation and Other Misnomers
Some employers think they can simply fire this person because they are still on probation or think they can work in an at-will state, where both employers and employees are free to terminate the relationship with or without cause. It is still highly advisable to have a conversation regarding the situation and to document what has been said and what has been agreed upon. This will help reduce the “surprise” factor Kane talks about.
What to Watch for on the Way Out
State wage laws are complex and vary from state-to-state. Kane finds it is quite common for employers to violate the state law act unintentionally. For example, in certain states employers are required to pay out all unused accrued vacation time on the last day of employment. Some states require that terminated employees be handed their final paycheck on the day they are terminated. Certain states require employers to distribute information regarding filing for unemployment benefits, while Federal laws require notification of the right to continue health insurance. Kane recommends that employers get legal advice or otherwise become very familiar with wage act requirements of each state they operate in order to avoid paying hefty penalties or expensive law suits.
Learn from your Mistakes
Hiring mistakes are costly and divert attention that is better spent moving the business forward. Examine your hiring process and make corrections where necessary to avoid making the same mistake twice.
Roberta Chinsky Matuson is the President of Human Resource Solutions and is the author of the forthcoming book, Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around, (Nicholas Brealey, January 2011.) Her firm helps organizations accelerate productivity and profitability by increasing employee engagement. Sign up to receive Roberta’s complimentary newsletter, HR Matters.