Slow or fast to hire? Fast or slow to fire?

If you are someone who hires people at your facility, you may have heard the following, diametrically opposed philosophies:

Slow to hire, quick to fire – OR – Quick to hire, slow to fire.

If you do a search for either phrase, you will find just as much competing evidence for which one is best and which one is nonsense.  It can be quite confusing.

For those who have hired the wrong person (and who among us hasn’t?), slow to hire – meaning taking your time to REALLY evaluate the candidate for strategic and cultural fit – makes the most sense.  The rational is that a little extra time upfront can save you headaches down the road. In fact, so many of us have made bad hiring decisions that a new industry was created, providing a bevy of tools and resources to evaluate talent – even calculators to tell you how much a bad hire will cost you.  Makes anyone afraid to utter those words, “you’re hired”.

On the other hand, quick to hire gets people in the door but gives them a chance to find their way and fit in.  And lets be honest, it feels like sometimes with our depleted applicant pool, we’ll hire anyone interested and sort ’em out later.

Sometimes, though, they don’t ever fit into your culture, or they create a negative subculture that undermines everything you do. Or, you are so desperate to keep people so you can open the funnel cake stand that you bend rules and lower your standards just to keep them “happy”. (Spoiler alert – that doesn’t work.)  I would argue that this is a function of a weak and unstructured culture, not a bad hiring practice, but we’ll explore that a little more in a minute.

The problem with both of these philosophies or tactics is that they oversimplify the applicant/employee experience.  And this ain’t a simple proposition.

I shared this graphic in my book ALL CLEAR! A Practical Guide for First Time Leaders and The People Who Support Them:

In essence, it shows my findings regarding what truly impacts employee performance and behavior, and the relative importance of the various processes.  It comes largely from discussions I’ve had over the years with operational managers who complain about the “quality of employee” and insist that hiring and training processes be improved.  What they don’t consider is the time these employees have spent out in the field.  Do they really expect that spending a day or two in a training class is MORE influential on their behavior than the three months they have been working in their role?  I don’t think so.

But this revisits the concept of a weak or unstructured culture.  When managers are blaming HR for bad employee performance, or you are lowering your standards just to keep people around, or you justify poor performance in one area because an employee is really good at something else, your hiring practices are likely not in question. Your culture is.

What if, and I’m just spit-ballin’ here, what if there was such a strong sense of what to do and what not to do among their managers and co-workers that a new hire never had to question the standard or what they could get away with?  You’re supposed to wear white shoes? EVERYONE is wearing white shoes ALL THE TIME! You’re supposed to not use your cell phone at work? No one EVER reaches for their phone “just to check the time”. And why is this? Not solely because the “right” people were hired or that HR said “don’t use your cell phone” during orientation… it’s because those standards were enforced on a regular basis and managers took the opportunity to coach and develop their employees.

So, getting back to hire or fire slow or fast? What about this…

  • Hire smart – don’t regulate to a timeframe, but use your company standards to evaluate cultural fit and make the best decision you can in the moment. Yes, sometimes you have to go with your gut.
  • Coach often – Don’t let them get away with negative or substandard performance, but also don’t let outstanding effort or performance go unnoticed.  Make it a priority (which means building the skill and taking the time) to communicate to your employees how they are doing, what impact they are making and what strides that can take to improve.
  • Fire when people demonstrate they can’t or are unwilling to meet your standards – Give them a chance, coach them to higher performance, but don’t keep people around who regularly demonstrate an inability or unwillingness to meet your standards. They may be a good person, but if they aren’t upholding your standards, they aren’t doing you any favors.

That doesn’t sound as pithy or hip, but it’s what WORKS!

Thanks for reading!

Speaking of ALL CLEAR – check out what some people (who didn’t write the book) have to say about it! 

“I just finished your book “All Clear!” WOW!!! What a great tool! It is so timely and practical. I am going to have my leadership team read it and use it to help us grow our team. I have been stressing to our leaders the importance of relationship building and how that is really the first step in growing the team. Your book is going to be a great reinforcement. I really think this is a must read for anyone in the service industry but absolutely if you are in the entertainment industry.”

Chris Camp – Owner Fun Fore All

“All Clear is a fantastic read for leaders with zero to fifty years of experience! After eight years in management at my current company, this book was a refreshing reminder of what it was like stepping into a leadership role for the first time. It also gave me new ideas and motivation to equip both my leadership and frontline staff with all the tools they need to succeed. This book is easy to stay engaged with and inspired me to completely reevaluate an approach to one of my current projects. My team will be grateful for this project’s otherwise uninteresting results thanks to All Clear! I highly recommend this book to any leader and even those who are looking to evolve into a leader in the future.”

Steven Camacho – Canobie Lake Park




Employees Also Want Fairness

In response to my last post, What Employees Want From Their Leaders, my friend Judy Kolk from Kayben Farms shared with me some of the things that she has uncovered over the years about what people feel an employer “owes” their employees.  She graciously agreed that I could re-post them here for all of you.  It’s great insight.

“In interviews I always ask people what they think an employer “owes” their employees.  The most common answer is “fairness”, so I go on to ask them what that means to them.

The responses I get sound like this:

  • A good place to work – this includes fun
  • Training – they don’t want to be set up for failure because of improper training
  • Communication – they feel like they can do better when they know what the expectations are
  • Respect – so many of them are concerned about not being respected, both personally and for their skills
  • Recognition – when they have done something exemplary, they want to be acknowledged
  • A chance to shine – they may have a particular skill never get’s “discovered”, but would have been happy to use in a previous job.”

See any similarities to our last list?

What I find interesting is that they say things like being set up for success, having the tools and training to do their job well and being recognized for their talents and accomplishments. They are essentially giving us a blueprint for success in terms of keeping our employees happy.

It also means that they WANT to succeed, they WANT to do a good job, and they WANT to be able to show they can contribute.

That’s the good news.  Now we just have to follow the blueprint.

Thanks for reading!


Bonus Fun: Kayben Farms has a pretty cool employment page where they do a great job of setting the stage for the employee experience.  Check it out!

Turn that team around!

The other day I was lucky enough to have lunch with a friend and former colleague, Dallas Hobbs. For the last few years, Dallas has been working at a local resort, and over lunch was telling me about the team he inherited a few years ago. There was drama, in-fighting and lots of “under-the-bus” throwing. He said it took awhile, but finally he had the team firing on all cylinders and willing to bend over backwards for each other.

You know me… I had to ask him how he did it.

Here’s what he said:

  • Got rid of the wrong people – Dallas quickly assessed who the trouble makers were and gave them a chance to follow his rules and vision.  When they didn’t, it was time for them to seek employment elsewhere.  How many of us have bad apples on our teams that are doing nothing but bringing morale and productivity down?  And why are they still working for you?
  • Was willing to be short staffed – when you remove people from your staff, you need to replace them, just maybe not right away.  Dallas was willing (even though it was difficult) to run with a skeleton crew while he took the time to find the right people to build up his team.  He had to really figure out what the team needed, and the only way to do that is to observe them over time. Which leads us to…
  • Hire for what the team needs – Dallas went beyond the basic job description of a position he was hiring for, and looked at what strengths and weaknesses the current team possessed. He realized that to simply hire more of what he already had would be a mistake.  He needed balance.  He needed people that could interact with guests AND take care of the paperwork, setting-up equipment and all the other nitty gritty, less glamorous stuff.
  • Hire the person, not the resume – In his quest to find balance, Dallas didn’t necessarily look for people who already had experience in his exact field.  He looked for people who liked to do the “type” of work he had for them to do, so he hired based on personality and skill, rather than simply looking at experience. One of his most successful employees had never worked in this type of environment before, where as one of his least successful hires had tons of relevant experience.  The latter was so stuck in her old ways that she couldn’t adapt to the new environment.

And the kicker…

  • Change supervisor mentality from reactive to proactive – Many supervisors pride themselves on being good at putting out fires.  Unfortunately, if all you are doing is reacting to the daily issues, you will never have a chance to look forward to be able to make things better and actually LEAD your team.  Dallas got them to identify what was causing the fires in the first place so they could eliminate them from happening.  That way they would have more time to be proactive and look to the future, rather than always looking toward the past.

So clearly this was not an overnight process.  It was painful at times, and it probably took a lot of effort to get people to come around and work as a team.

But eventually they did.  And now Dallas can focus on moving forward, instead of worrying about which way the bus is going.

Are you having issues with your team?  How could some of these suggestions work for you?

Thanks for reading!

About the author: Matt Heller is always looking for great stories about teamwork and leadership in order to give his readers and clients as many different perspectives as possible.  If you have a compelling story you are willing to share, let’s hear it!  Either leave a comment or email Matt directly.