How soon is too soon to sack that terrible new hire?

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Whether they take a little too long to adjust, have a habit of making the same mistakes over and over again or just aren’t meeting your expectations – there comes a time when you have to hold your (not-so) new hire accountable.

So when is the right time? Striking a balance between damage control and giving new recruits a chance can be hard – some people are naturally slow learners or struggle to settle in but once they’ve got it, they’re great. 

Well, according to a survey of 500 HR professionals, eight months is the ideal time limit for new hires to prove their worth. However, the same survey found that nearly 30% of companies think its takes a year or more for recruits to reach full productivity.

But business coach Andre Lavoie says it’s not about time – employers simply have to consider four things when figuring out if that new hire deserves another chance.
  1. Deadlines 
Initially, new hires probably won’t be able to handle the same workload as seasoned employees but that doesn’t mean they should be missing their own deadlines.

“Start them off with a task or two on their first day and slowly build up their workload as the week progresses,” advises Lavoie. “Giving new hires a few small, manageable tasks from day one will help them to get their feet wet and better prepare them for a typical workload later on,” he continued.

If they struggle with a significantly lighter workload, it’s an early indicator that they won’t adapt as well.
  1. Quality over quantity
While deadlines are important, the quality of work shouldn’t be compromised in order to meet them – “Speed doesn’t necessarily correspond with quality,” confirms Lavoie.  

“For new employees who might still be struggling to reach the productivity level of existing employees, make sure they clearly understand the job expectations […] and try providing them with reference materials or work examples that clearly outline what’s expected,” he advises.
  1. Set your priorities straight
“One sure-fire way to tell a new hire can stand on their own two feet is their ability to prioritise tasks,” says Lavoie.  “A new employee who is truly self-sufficient doesn’t need to be told what to work on at the start of each day – they know.”
  1. Communication
Perhaps the most important thing to consider when reviewing a new hire is your own communication skills.

Lavoie says that employers that don’t communicate with new hires are doing themselves – and the new worker – a disservice.

Establishing a solid system of communication means any issues can be identified early and training can be put in place to help the new team member succeed.

“Keep up regular communication with new hires during the first few months on the job. Regularly meeting with them can help both parties identify areas that may still need some work. Additionally, remind current staff about their roles in welcoming new hires and helping them live the cultural values and vision,” concludes Lavoie.
  • JEAN on 30/04/2015 5:11:07 p.m.

    we have an issue with a co-worker who just cant pull her weight. she is an immigrant from congo so understandably the language barrier could be an issue,. Unfortunately for us our management has left it up to her peers to train her. the reason why this is unfortunate is that she has the attitude of "in my country we are all the same, if you try to be the boss you get a hiding!" her arrogance is starting to take its toll on the whole team as when there is hard work to be done, her and her husband find other jobs to do and the remaining 3 of us have to leave our jobs to pick up their share of the work. Fortunately or unfortunately she is on a fixed term contract which is due to end in august. I say fortunately because we are all counting down the days to when her contract is due to end, however I also say unfortunately because for the last 9 months there have been numerous attempts to raise the issue to our management only to have them ignore it as "they have more important things to worry about". This womens work ethic is lowering morale within the team and starting to cause stress. What do you do when your constant attempts to get management to deal with the issue are ignored to the point where they turn it on you as "being the ogre"? it got to the stage where this women was reported on by a co-worker for being asleep on the job for 45 mins whilest everyone else was hard at work! She is in a role that she is completely incompetent at performing, to the point where there is nothing in our job she can do without the remainder of the team having to fix her screw ups! She creates more work for everyone because of her incompetence but is too arrogant to learn from the more experienced ones. so what advise can you give? although it is only 3 months to go, I feel if nothing is done, the situation could lead to an explosive situation.

  • gb on 24/03/2015 1:16:46 p.m.

    I also agree with John. I have moved someone in two weeks under the 90 day trial. This was exceptional and sad. Subject to indicators, early feedback to staff is important and all staff have a 60 days review. Potential is important - they have 60 days to show their potential - another 15 to convince us if we are wavering. In an SME, 1 bad in egg in 20 has a much greater impact than within a corporate environment. Is getting this wrong, earlier, worth the weeks of supervisor coaching and performance management to remedy the issues later?

  • Bruce on 24/03/2015 11:57:52 a.m.

    I agree with John,and in addition the employer has an obligation under the ERA to be responsive and communicative which probably doesn't exist in US employment law. If we believe there was consistent and considerable employer pressure for the 90 day trial period provisions of the ERA, it seems unlikely anyone would opt to wait 8 months without at least taking advantage of those provisions.

  • John Camilleri on 24/03/2015 10:58:19 a.m.

    I totally agree with the 4 steps outlined here to help with the successful integration of a new hire, however my feeling is that the majority of those 500 HR professionals would have worked for larger corporates. Having worked with and advised a number of small businesses with less than 20 employees, I would find it hard to justify an 8 month settling in period for a new hire. That is why I would always advise them to do all their due diligence before making a job offer and then to include a 90-day trial clause in their IEAs and to properly assess the suitability of the new hire within that initial 3-month period.

    I am aware that some may take longer than others to settle in and that then, once they do they may shine, but that initial period could be a game breaker for many small businesses.

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