Leaderisticality

How to hire, train, and maintain an hourly workforce

Why Fire Fast?

I meant to write and post this just after sharing that article

Hire Slow, Fire Fast on HBR

I liked that article because it gave good reasons why it’s so important to get the hiring part right.  It also gave a short account of when we know we’ve made a hiring mistake, and fixing that mistake quickly is best for all parties involved.  I feel however, that we could do with a lot more discussion about when and why we should act quickly to get a poor hourly hire off our team.

When we hire the wrong person as a team Leader, we know it right away.  Or, I should say, the team knows it right away.  That person’s team Leader may not be aware of the problem for some time, depending on how accessible he or she is, and the culture in the company/department.

Anyone reading this who has also been in a retail store, restaurant, gym, doctors office, art gallery, or toll booth (that should cover pretty much every adult who could possibly be reading this) can easily talk at length about someone working at one of these places that should have been let go a long time ago.  I often have to stop myself from asking hourly workers I encounter “when did you lose your love for this job”?  Or “You are obviously very unhappy… why do you stay here”?

When I first started working as a restaurant manager just after I got out of college I heard, and have come to believe, that the number one reason why people stop frequenting a business is because of an attitude of indifference from an employee.  I don’t know where this originated, and please let me know so I can give credit where it is due.   We have all experienced this from an hourly employee, or even a manager/leader.  Some of us, if we are truthful, at some time in our lives have been that employee.  When I was in my teens I was not engaged at all!  There… it’s out.  Phew!

Our poor new hire needs only a short time to alienate a large number of our customers.  It then costs us a huge amount of time and money to win them back, if we ever do.  These poor new hires also do an incredible amount of harm to the team.  If we have an average team, which I guess from the word average, most of us have, we are working hard to maintain the level of quality products and services we offer.  We train, retrain, follow-up, reward, issue corrective actions, celebrate and congratulate, and often even end up working in team members places just to keep up.  Being a retail or restaurant manager/Leader is not only physically hard work, but it is also a very stressful environment.   Call outs alone make much of the job simply juggling people, products, and time just to get through each day.

Now throw into the mix that poor hire.  That one that you know you shouldn’t have hired just weeks (perhaps less) into their employment.  But what are you to do?  You’ve already gone too long being short-handed, since those last 2 people just stopped showing up.  The rest of the team will only work at this pace and these extra hours for so long, right?  And the stress is getting to them too!  At first they understood, and were willing to work the extra hours or extra shift because they knew we were in a jam.  Now it’s just getting old for everyone, and the shifts are going uncovered.  You’re keeping up as best you can, and how long can you keep this up?

Well… now you’ve got a name to put on the schedule and assign to those shifts.  That’s a big relief.  And… it’s not long before the other team members start complaining about the poor hire.  They don’t do their work.  When no one is looking they just stand around.  Their breaks/lunches are out of control.  They disappear just when it get’s busy.  They are not done with their work at the end of the shift and everyone has to help to get out on time.  Now… that poor hire, who has had the opportunity to alienate a number of your customers, is now negatively affecting the rest of your staff.

This is where it get’s interesting, and not in a good way.  Not only will the rest of your workers get even more tired of pulling the weight of that poor hire, but they know what you are paying that poor hire, and it’s not much, if any, less than the rest of them are making.  So now you, yes you are allowing this person to get pretty much the same pay as some of your best team members, while your best team members do twice as much work.  If this goes on very much longer you will be at serious risk of losing some of your best people. We haven’t even mentioned the negativity this poor hire will infect your team with if they are allowed to stay on for any length of time.  People who act like this, and many of you know that this example is not much of an exaggeration, see every effort you make to change their behavior as a personal attack.  For some reason you have it out for them, and they will take every opportunity to tell everyone about it.

How does that measure against going just a little while longer under those stressful understaffed times while finding the right hire?  Doesn’t look so bad now does it?  We’ve all been there at one time or another.  It’s a lesson I learned… and it took me more than once if I’m being honest.

The first lesson is never settle when hiring.  Only hire the best people.  Even if it means taking a little longer.  Everyone will appreciate it in the long run.  Go back and read my whole series on hiring hourly team members.  Beg, borrow, or buy a copy of Good to Great (you can get it for a little over $1 plus shipping) and read it through.  Good hiring get’s you past the 50-yard line.

The second lesson is do whatever you need to do to get that poor hire off your team as quickly as humanly possible.  Talk to HR.  Talk to your boss.  Please don’t hesitate to get all of the help you can before this get’s out of control.  The entire team will thank you for it!

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One thought on “Why Fire Fast?

  1. Pingback: Building our Leadership team part 4… choosing our new supervisor | Leaderisticality

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