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Help! I Made a Bad Hire!

What do you do when you have hired
someone who, once on board, is not a good hire? No one intends to make
bad hiring decisions but for a variety of reasons, they haDr. Jekylppen.  Think Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde.

We
interviewed a number of top executives and, interestingly, they mostly
agreed on solutions. They all agreed that within three to six months,
and sometimes much sooner, you will know if you have made a bad hire.
They were unanimous in their opinion that the majority of the time you
should cut your losses as soon as possible and “package them out.” Only
on rare occasions in their collective experience has a company been able
to turn a hiring mistake around.  When it does happen it is a magical
synergy of the particular individual, his or her situation and
complexity of the role. Their advice can be summarized as, “Face the
music and move on. Do not sit tight and hope that it will get better.
Fault generally lies on both sides.” 


Cut Your Losses

Dan
Bowling, Managing Principal of Positive Workplace Solutions, LLC and
former head of human resources for Coca-Cola Enterprises, provided a
response typical of the group: “In a perfect world, cut your losses as
soon as you can. In my experience, once you begin to have serious doubts
it is hard to reverse them. Your instincts are probably right.”

One
of our clients hired a Vice President of Compensation who was a
generalist with an emphasis in compensation.  The individual was very
convincing that she could handle a compensation role and interviewed
well with the key stakeholders. “Seemed like a good fit.  References
checked out – she had tons of promise.”  The hiring manager and
candidate both acknowledged there would be a learning curve and it would
take some time to get her up to speed. However, it quickly became
apparent that she was unable to handle the stress of a new environment
as well as the demands of improving her technical skills.  Her mistakes
made her more stressed and she stopped sleeping, which compounded her
ability to assess new information, and before the end of the first week
it was clear that she was not able to manage the job.

Cut lossesThe
hiring manager openly discussed with the individual how they both made
the decision without having all of the facts and she was released with a
two week notice.  “We hired one of the other candidates in the search
and it worked out well in the long run.”

Others
were less successful. Undoing a hiring mistake quickly can be difficult
in the modern corporation because of the multiple constituencies
involved in the recruitment and selection process of a key executive.
Sometimes it takes the diplomatic skills of a Bismarck to convince the
rest of the management team a mistake was made. One executive tells a
grim tale where he got stuck with a bad hire: “A typical issue one faces
is when a senior person is hired with the involvement of other
departmental heads and you know a mistake has been made within the first
few weeks. The executive might be satisfying the needs and agendas of
those other constituencies but can’t do the job you need doing – and you
are the only one who sees it on a daily basis. In one situation half
the executive team had supported a new hire, but couldn’t see his lack
of performance like my team could.  It took two years to manage his
exit. By then, the damage was done.”

Coaching

Some
of our respondents maintain that coaching the individual can sometimes
save the hire.  360 degree assessments are extremely effective tools to
obtain concrete feedback from others and address performance issues. 
One executive told us, “clearly communicate expectations and needed
areas of improvement, define key measurable metrics to achieve
performance objectives, document all activity and ongoing progress, and
genuinely work with the individual to help them embrace the role and
deliver desired results.” However, if the issues are style or cultural
match exclusively, it is harder to coach someone to fit into the
organization. At times, circumstances change that are beyond the
individual’s control.  Examples that come to mind are when the person is
assigned a new manager, a new CEO has a different strategic vision, the
company is sold or makes an acquisition and suddenly the newly hired
executive is not a fit.  One executive recalled hiring a Vice President
of Human Resources who was a superb fit both culturally and
technically.  However, six months after he joined, the company acquired
another company with extensive international operations.  The new Vice
President of Human Resources had no international experience and would
not have been qualified for his role in the now global company. The
company and the individual used coaching, added support, and training to
allow the individual to keep and excel in his expanded role.

Move the Person into Another Role

Others
suggest moving the employee into another function or position that
might provide a better fit. The consensus is that this works on
occasion. For example, if there is a personality conflict with the
hiring manager but there is a comparable role in another region or
business unit, it is possible to successfully transition the person.
However, “there are not many second chances in most companies,” one
executive cautioned us. Bowling was equally as cautious about this
approach: “It is possible that another position in the organization
might be a better fit for the personality and skills of the employee, so
make a good faith effort to look for one. But watch out that you don’t
just move your problems to someone else – that is unethical and will
destroy your credibility in the long run.”

Learn From Your Mistakes

What
was your mistake?  Was it hiring too fast?  Ignoring red flags because
you personally liked the individual?  Being wooed by a track record so
you ignored cultural fit? mistake
Inadequate due diligence?  Most of our respondents agreed that many of
their hiring mistakes proved to be an opportunity to re-examine their
hiring process. And yes, you do need a structured hiring process that
defines what you are seeking, aligns the interview team, includes
behavioral based interviewing and ensures due diligence. 

Realize
that a batting average of 100% on new hires is unrealistic and
shouldn’t be expected. Jack Welch, former Chief Executive Officer of
General Electric, has been quoted as saying “New managers are lucky to
get it right half the time. And even executives with decades of
experience will tell you that they make the right calls 75% of the time
at best.”

And when you do make those mistakes, don’t be afraid to admit them. Just try not to repeat them.. 


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