Why You Should Be Hiring Slow and Firing Fast

You need a job filled right away. You’re afraid if you take your time, your star candidate will find a job elsewhere; you’ll never find the best; the work that’s piling up will become unmanageable and the employees carrying the burden of the absentee worker will leave because they can’t stand the stress anymore!

These fears are all understandable and for some hard-to-fill engineering positions, for example, striking while the iron’s hot may be the way to go. But in the vast majority of cases, it’s wise to think very carefully before taking someone on. Then, if things don’t work out, dismiss them before things go too far.

Before making any quick decisions, or taking your time to make more important ones, here are four things to consider when hiring, or firing:

1. Culture Matters More Than Ever

Get to know employees before hiring them full-time. Do they fit with your existing culture or the culture you’re looking to develop? Studies have shown that companies that have built a great culture can significantly lower employee turnover and perform better financially than their competitors.

Take this study at Scripps Health, for instance. Incremental improvements in the workplace over a 10 year period have resulted in $70 million in cost savings and an increase in annual profits by a staggering 1200%.

Try to evaluate how your prospective employee will fit into this culture: are they team players, are they enthusiastic about the work you do and will they be willing to share their knowledge within the team?

“The candidate who lacks certain hard skills might be a cause for concern, but the candidate who lacks the beliefs and values you need is a giant culture debt red flag.” ~Dharmesh Shah, co-founder of HubSpot

Take the time to get to know the person by finding out how deeply they’ve looked into your company before the interview and discover what their outside interests are. Hire them on a contract basis for a while, screen the tasks you’ve given them and watch how they interact with the other people in your office before thinking of offering them a position.

2. Hiring Costs Add Up – Fast

The costs associated with interviewing, hiring, training and maintaining an employee are growing. A bad hire will cost even small businesses thousands of dollars! You can’t afford (literally) to rush into anything.

The average cost of a new employee is a not insubstantial $57,968, and training and development association ASTD estimates that U.S. organizations spent $125.88 billion on employee learning and development in 2009. Small businesses (those with fewer than 64 employees), who can ill afford the expense, may find that the cost of employee turnover is just short of $8,000.

3. Unengaged Employees Are Silent Killers

Unengaged employees are silently killing your productivity, sabotaging your vision and undermining their coworkers. Keeping them around is dangerous and monitoring levels of engagement in new or contract employees is crucial.

What are the problems uncommitted employees can cause? If they aren’t invested in your company, your company is less productive –in fact, they cost the U.S. economy $370 billion annually. (Happy, engaged employees, you’ll see in that infographic, save their companies 5% or more in the costs they’re responsible for, a large quantity if you imagine a larger team).

Another cause of concern is that employees can negatively influence the engagement levels of their co-workers. Some studies have found that 18% of unengaged employees go so far as to undermine their co-workers’ success.

Therefore, it’s imperative for your business’s bottom line and your other employees’ state of mind to root out those you haven’t been able to engage – before the poison spreads.

4. Your Gut Knows What’s Best

If you suspect within the first few months that an employee isn’t working out, they’re probably not working out. Trust your gut and cut your losses. Successful new hires will hit the ground running, show immediate initiative and tackle pre-existing challenges. If you don’t see that within the first few months, don’t assume it will surface later.

If you’re not convinced about the reliability of your instinct, you’ll be glad to know that studies prove that experts in their field can actually afford to trust their gut.

As William Shakespeare said, “Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast.” That’s especially good advice when hiring someone.

Watch carefully, evaluate and trust your instinct if you have doubts on how a new employee is fitting in, then get rid of the bad apples. Act before you start really paying for it.

About the Author

David Hassell is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of 15Five, a software company focused on producing transparency and alignment in organizations through structured, efficient and effective communication practices. David has also been named The Most Connected Man You Don’t Know in Silicon Valley by Forbes.