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What To Do When A New Hire Underwhelms

No matter how robust your hiring process is, sometimes it happens.  You go through the applicants as carefully as you can, you ask pointed, hard-hitting interview questions and then, the employee you ultimately select just doesn’t quite measure up for one reason or another.  What do you do then?  Below, we’ll offer some helpful tips and suggestions:

Identify Root Causes

Although your first impulse might be to fire the new hire as quickly as possible and move on, this is seldom the optimal move.  After all, there was something you obviously liked about the employee in question, even if they proved not to be a perfect fit once hired.  Given that, the first step is to do a deep dive and come to some understanding of exactly why they’re not working out.

This could be for any number of reasons.  Maybe your job description doesn’t align well with the actual responsibilities of the job.  Maybe it’s a training issue.  It could be a problem with the employee’s personality not meshing well with the corporate culture.  Whatever the case, there’s always one or more specific reasons and the faster you gain a firm understanding of what those reasons are, the faster you can make intelligent decisions about how to proceed.

Addressing Training Issues

Training issues take two basic forms.  Either the new employee is proving incapable of learning the material you’re training on, or there’s a problem with the material itself, or its presentation.  You can’t automatically assume that just because other employees have successfully navigated your training program, everyone will have an equal measure of success on that front.

There are actually seven different types of learning that employees can engage in.  These are:

  • Visual
  • Aural
  • Verbal
  • Physical
  • Logical
  • Social
  • And Solitary

If your training is geared toward one, or just a handful of these, you may be making it more difficult for some of your employees to learn whatever material you’re presenting them.  In this case, you should take steps to expand the way you teach your training materials, so you make it easier for more types of learners to master the skills needed to work for you.

Making changes to the way your company conducts training isn’t cheap or easy.  It takes a considerable investment in both time and resources, but truthfully, if your current training program is very narrowly focused to just one or two different types of learning, then you’re actually hurting your firm’s growth opportunities.

It’s almost certain that your training methodology has driven off at least a few new hires who are simply more accustomed to learning in a way that you’re not teaching, which means that you’re not actually hiring the best and the brightest.  You’re getting the best hires you can, given the inherent limitations of your training program.  That’s definitely not a great position to be in.

On the flip side though, you can create a powerful strategic advantage for your business by ensuring that your training department caters to a wide range of learning styles.  After all, if you’re doing it and your competitors aren’t, the best employees are going to gravitate to your firm.

Adjust Expectations (Yours And Theirs)

If it proves to be the case that there was a mismatch between the job description and the actual job duties, the employee you hired may not be as ideal a fit as you first imagined.  That’s not the employee’s fault.  They responded to the job description you presented them with.

In this case, it’s important to sit down right away and have a frank, honest conversation with the employee in question.

Once they know what the actual job is, they might not want it.  If they do, understand that it may take them some additional time to get up to speed, which brings us to the next point:

Give Them Some Time

The simple reality is that some people are fast learners and others aren’t.  Sometimes, you show a person how to do something once or twice and they’ve got it, while others require more repetition and/or the application of different learning strategies before it sinks in.

That’s okay.  While you certainly want to get any new hire up to speed as quickly as possible, this has to be weighed against the needs of your new employee.  Remember too that even if the training process takes a little longer than you expected, it’s still going to be vastly cheaper to take that extra time, rather than simply fire them in frustration and start over.

This, of course, is especially true if there’s a mismatch between the job description you posted and the actual job duties, as we talked about in the last section.

Cultural and Personality Clashes

This is perhaps the most difficult issue to address and may well necessitate early termination.  In all honesty though, this is something that should have been caught during the interview process.  Sadly, these types of issues are among the most difficult to deal with and will, in many, if not most cases, have to result in the termination of your new hire.

If this happens, it’s a sure sign that you should review your interviewing process.  It could easily be the case that one set of eyes just isn’t enough here.  To ensure a good personality and cultural fit, it’s often advantageous to have a peer interview in addition to a one on one with you and with the manager over the department the new hire will be working in.

Yes, this requires more legwork from you and people you employ, but it also goes a long way toward ensuring that the person you ultimately select for your position will mesh well with the other people you’ve already got working for you and won’t be the spark of a clash between their personality and your company’s culture.

There are more issues than just these of course, but our hope is that this article will give you plenty to think about if you’re currently dealing with a situation where a new hire just isn’t living up to your expectations for some reason.