Rebounding From a Bad Hire

You reviewed, you phone-screened, you interviewed and interviewed again.  References were done, the offer process went well, training was thorough. Sometimes, despite all boxes being checked and all intentions being good, the human factor gets in the way and a newly hired employee quickly becomes an obvious misfit or underachiever. You see it, your staff sees it, and unfortunately sometimes, your customers see it too.  You react quickly and right the wrong, sending him or her on their way with appropriate consideration and conversation.   What can you do to ensure that your company and your people are not weakened by this stumble and that you can move forward with resilience and vision? We recommend that you focus on these three areas:

Lessons Learned
Take the time to reflect, without ego or resentment, on what went wrong with this hire.  Ask yourself (and your team) the following questions: Were you oversold by the candidate?  Were the right people involved in making the final decision to hire?  Did you ask the right questions? Did you evaluate the individual using a formalized assessment process? Did you check references thoroughly? Did you spend enough time meeting with the new employee, getting to know them and their work/communication style? Did you share with them the “unwritten rules” of how work gets done? Did you set expectations and tell them what success would look like in their role? Did you check in often and identify and address the hiccups as they arose? Did you consider development or internal transfer as an option before you sent them on their way?

Rally the Team
The loss of key team member, especially one who may have been introduced as a superstar or “top talent” can put your people on edge, fearing more work, less control, potential conflict or business turmoil.  Morale may suffer and there may be muttering of “I knew this would happen” if some of your people were bitter about not having input during the hiring process, or had issues with the position or person in the first place.

The key here is confidence and clarity.  Take the time to explain to your people what has been learned and how they can support the next steps in the hiring/re-hiring process. By giving them the opportunity for broader input in redefining, screening and possibly participating in candidate interviews, they will feel invested in the process and more supportive of the person that eventually fills it.  Be careful to remain future-focused. While there is no doubt you all have learned from the hiring misstep, the goal now is ensuring that the fit is right next time. Make sure the whole team understands the role they play in achieving this goal.

Review the Hiring Process
Begin with a thoughtful review of the original job posting and position description.  Add in any skill sets or characteristics that were not considered a requirement, but have now become more apparent. At the same time, remove or de-weight any points that you, at one point, considered essential but now see as incidental or auxiliary. Determine what positives and negatives need to be shared about this role before you begin to re-hire.  You want your next chosen candidate to view you and your team in the best possible light while also understanding what challenges they’ll face. Too many times employees are faced with a shock in their third or fourth week that knocks them back and can result in stunted performance, resentment or an overall inability to cope. Share an honest depiction of both the highlights and lowlights of what’s ahead.



Review the Onboarding Process
Onboarding goes beyond general orientation (see Three Keys to Onboarding Success). It can be a months-long process that will make successful integration into your business easier for a new employee, resulting in a faster ramp-up to full productivity and higher levels of engagement.  Hiring managers can usually find a number of ways to describe how an exiting employee failed to deliver, but are rarely willing to look at the ways in which the company may have actually failed the employee. If you’re not offering supportive guidance, sufficient training, networking opportunities and a comfortable and courteous work environment, your newest recruits may be set up to fail.

One of the biggest mistakes we see companies make is rushing to “fill the void” and “plug the holes” when an important hire doesn’t work out.  Resist the temptation to push through without properly reflecting and setting clear intentions and defined goals for the next attempt.  Get your priorities straight, your people onboard, and then venture forth with an open-mind and maybe a little more savvy than the last time around.

Related Articles:

When the New Hire Disappoints

What Smart Leaders Do to Land Great Hires