Productivity & Effectiveness

Don’t hire fast & fire fast

By 04/09/2020 September 9th, 2020 No Comments

I read some LinkedIn posts recently stating that the best way to hire people when your company is growing is to “Hire Fast, Fire Fast”.

Plenty of people jumped into the comments supporting this approach. It seems it’s quite common.

Get bums on seats quickly and if they’re the wrong people – fire them quickly.

In a sense, doing minimal due diligence and taking a gamble on hopefully finding good people. Of course, the more you hire (and learn from the bad hires), the greater the odds you get the right person.

But it’s not an approach I recommend. It has a human cost to it, a financial cost to it, a reputation cost to it – and it’s not the professional approach I recommend.

Here are some reasons why I don’t recommend the hire fast, fire fast approach.

Watch the video, or read on below.

Is it fair?

How unfair on the new hires is this approach?

You make it easy to get a job, with little scrutiny, and then if this person doesn’t work out – put them back on the job market quickly.

You create a blip on their CV. You give them comfort of finding a job, then the uncertainty and emotional challenge of being “let go”.

It takes its toll on people. It plays with people lives, self-esteem and self-confidence.

They may even be leaving a job to come and join you.

Sure, there is risk on their side, but how do they know what your criteria for success is?

People remember how you make them feel.

It’s not easy, or fun, to fire people

Firing people is NOT a fun or pleasant process, even in probation, where it’s relatively easy to let people go.

There is a lot of emotional carnage during an exit.

Why put yourself through this? Why put the employee through this? Why put HR through this?

Am I next?

Firing people has an impact on everyone else. If you’re hiring lots of people, and letting a number of them go, the turnover is obvious to all.

“Am I next?” will be on people’s minds.

You’ll have to work hard to stop people worrying.

Your team may even be sat there saying “am I next?”.

This turmoil creates an unsettling environment to work in. I’ve been there and I’ve experienced this first hand.

People working in turmoil and uncertainty will also never bring their best self to work.

Damage doesn’t take long

The wrong person can inflict a serious amount of damage to your existing team in a short space of time….be careful.

Why risk it?

A business is successful because of the work, interactions and output of the people in it. If it wasn’t because of the people, why would you need to hire anybody?

Don’t bring down your existing team in a bid to fill positions quickly.

And even worse, is to inflict damage, then remove someone, then repeat the exact same thing again.

People are different

Different people take different amounts of time to be effective. A lot of this effectiveness is down to the manager…and let’s be honest….with a mentality of hire fast and fire fast – how much time and energy will this manager commit to this person?

What if someone takes a little longer to become effective? How long will you give them?

What if someone is more diligent, needs more facts, requires more direction? How long will you give them?

How long will you give anyone? How will you measure them? What will their success look like? Is your system and process set up for success?

Or will everyone who takes on certain roles fail, because the system, red tape and structure of the work is not effective?

How much does this approach cost?

There is a significant financial cost to bringing people in to your organisation – and then removing them.

HR, admin, IT and the like…..do you really need to ramp up costs over and over, when you could take your time in the first instance?

How much does a hire fast, fire fast approach cost? Have you measured it?

What about the unmeasurable? The loss of productivity by others dealing with poor performers? The time spent trying to “manage” a bad hire? The lost morale and knock on effect of poor behaviours?

It’s expensive to hire. As a manager, we owe the business owners, investors, shareholders, chair-person and customers respect when playing with their money.

Do you really need someone that quickly?

The main argument for a hire fast, fire fast mentality is that people are needed urgently.

Maybe.

But that should have the word “effective” in there. Effective people are needed urgently – and finding them often takes time.

If you’re that desperate for people to grow your team and company, why not use contractors or freelancers for a short while until you find the right person?

Your time will be stolen

As a manager, our time is valuable. Everyone’s time is.

We can’t be everywhere and get our work done when we are distracted dealing with low performance. Neither can your existing team spare time to deal with low performance.

Do you want to spend your time hiring the wrong person, putting out the fires that person causes, talking about performance, removing that person – then doing it all over again…and again….and again?

You are a role model

As a manager (and leader), people are looking at you and studying you – and likely mimicking you.

At the minimum, they are assessing you for your competency, what you value, how you treat people and how you will support them in their careers.

A haphazard, care free approach to hiring sends a lot of messages – but are they the right ones?

Trust is important. People want to know their managers care about them. People want to know their managers are competent.

People want to know they too weren’t a gamble that paid off.

Make do with average

Finally, one of the most common outputs I’ve seen from this approach is the fact, that if you get your gamble wrong, and you hire the wrong person, they often end up staying.

Removing people is tricky, expensive, emotionally charged and not very pleasant. I see managers gambling on hires, then moving them to one side to avoid conversations about low performance or removal.

They then hire again. And maybe they get this right. Or maybe they get it wrong.

And more and more people come in to the workplace, taking up valuable salaries, roles and time and energy. Or they run out of money and try to make do with average people.

Teams become bloated, low performers are pushed aside, the team is brought down, good people leave. I’ve seen this in many companies.

And the worse part about this is – if you let this roll on for too long, it becomes increasingly hard to attract good people to work there, making the whole process even harder.

Instead, try this:

  1. Focus on behaviours when hiring and managing.
    1. Ensure you’re interviewing for behaviours, not just skills or what it says on the candidate’s CV.
  2. Hire for the person.
    1. Are they kind, caring, hard working, positive to be around, keen to help you grow the business? Will they add to your company society, or detract from it?
  3. Study the interview and hiring process itself. And make it better.
    1. Remove wasted steps, delays and pointless admin.
    2. Remember, good people are interviewing you too.
    3. With a slick process, recruitment doesn’t have to be the lumbering process it can be for many companies.
  4. Take your time and hire the best person for the role, not just the best person who turns up.
  5. Look at ways to reduce hiring costs and attract more people.
    1. If it’s a great place to work, then leverage this.
    2. Employee referral schemes can be effective, brand ambassadors take time to build, but can pay off immensely.
    3. Promotional social media and PR can work too.
  6. Use trusted recruiters or hiring teams who can do a huge amount of the vetting and assessment up front.
    1. They should be strong brand ambassadors and understand the behaviours and people you are looking for.
    2. Instead of throwing lots of people at the process and taking a risk, put forward fewer great candidates and interview carefully.
  7. Get professional about the interview process.
    1. Learn to ask behavioural questions.
    2. Study the art of non-verbal communication.
    3. Train everyone interviewing on how to interview well.
    4. Learn the difference between legal and illegal questions.
  8. Hire slow. Fire fast.
    1. If you take your time the bar will be high. And very occasionally you might get it wrong. Then coach, give feedback, support, train and work with people – but if it’s not working out, move quickly.

I’ll leave you with a quote from a brilliant book “How to grow a business” by Paul Hawken.

“Firing is failure. Everybody is at fault. That’s the simplest way to look at it. The best way to avoid firing people is to hire well in the first place.

Hiring is one of the most critical activities in any business, and you should learn to do it well. It can make an enormous difference to your success.

I estimate that one-half of all business problems originate with the perceptions, attitudes and practices of the owner. The other half of the problems are caused by faulty hiring.” (Hawken, 1988)

Ultimately, do what feels right for you and your company. But be careful about the hidden costs (financial and emotional) that surround hiring the wrong person.

If you want to read more about hiring and onboarding I have a book – Join Our Company – available here.

Bibliography

Hawken, P., 1988. Growing A Business. Fireside, p.213.

Rob

Rob