What To Do When Your New Hire Is Not Working Out

You’ve offered the role and they’ve accepted. Hooray! But if you have ever hired someone who was clearly struggling after a few months into the job, you probably know that sinking feeling of wondering if you made a hiring mistake. Here’s five action points to help you make that decision:

Action #1: Review Their Training

Can you honestly say your new team member got a reasonably organised, thorough introduction to their role and how you do things? We all have the best of intentions, but in the flurry of the day to day, things get so busy that we throw new people in at the deep-end with little semblance of guidance. If that happened, it’s worth putting on the breaks and covering the basics now.

Action #2: How Clear Have You Really Been?

Ask yourself, have you been clear about what good performance looks like in the role? If you’re making the assumption your new hire will magically just “know” without a lot of guidance, you could be looking at the heart of the problem. Think back and assess. Did you give well-defined and candid feedback on the work that has been produced? If it was not what you expected, did you talk to them about what you want them to do differently? How it is not meeting your expected standards? Have you given them examples of the type of work you are looking for? If you have not done those things, take a step back and do them now. Today.

On the flip side, if you genuinely feel all those boxes have been ticked, you have set clear expectations and given constructive and detailed feedback, and you are still seeing issues, move promptly to the next step.

Action #3: Do They Have It?

 In essence are you setting them up to fail? Think about the person in question: do you think they can get up to speed as quickly as you are going to need? It is easy to pick something up swiftly, especially if you are prepared (or able) to make the investment of intensive one-on-one time for the next while. Some other skills take time to develop, and some people just don’t have the aptitude no matter how long you spend with them. Gauge how much time you can realistically spend with them, or get others in the team to participate. But bear in mind, it may be too big a task for the amount of time that you have to dedicate. Be realistic. Do they have it?

Action #4: Have An Honest Conversation

Talk with your new team member about your concerns and be candid. Discuss the ways in which they are not meeting your expectations. Be careful, remember this is a critical conversation, so it is imperative you are explicit here. I often talk to managers who genuinely feel they have been clear and constructive: “you are not performing at the level I need in this job and I’m questioning whether it’s the right fit,”. But over the table, the staff member hears “here are some suggestions that will make your work better.” So you can be kind, but don’t fluff around. In the end, it will be far kinder to be direct about where things stand than to hide the message and risk that the person will be caught off-guard by it later.

As a critical part of this conversation, ensure you give them the opportunity to openly discuss what they feel the issues might be. Be prepared to listen with an receptive mind. Can you really support them in the way they need? For example, if they say they need more time to get the workload completed and you need someone to work more quickly – and you have recently seen others meet the standard this early – you should be honest your office is fast-paced and you need more speed. Being honest about your needs can be tough, but it is the only reasonable approach since they need to have a full understanding of where things stand.

Action #5: What’s The Next Step?

If the conversation goes well and you are hopeful that they are on-board and can make the progress required, you can simply give things a little more time to see if it improves. But if you know, deep in your heart, that this person is never going to hit the high-notes with what you need them to achieve, then the best thing to do is to be honest and move quickly toward transitioning the person out of the role.

It is a difficult decision to make, it is never pleasant. But the fact of matter is if they are not the right person, they deserve to be in a job that they are better suited for. (Whether this means a formal performance review plan or a more informal process will depend on how long the person has been working for the business and also your company’s internal policies. But with a newer staff member, it often won’t make sense to do a lengthy formal process.)

If you do decide to bring things to an end, make sure that you take time to reflect on what happened. Hiring is not an exact science, and even the best managers will sometimes make the wrong decision. But when a new hire does not work out, spend some time working out what went wrong. Did you need to see more work samples or probe into different things in your interviews or ask references different types of questions? Make sure that you are taking those lessons into your next hire.

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