Is Slow to Hire, Fast to Fire Still Important in a Slow Job Market?

Slow to hire, fast to fire as a management philosophy still matters, even now, in today’s labor market.

The job talent pool is pretty shallow these days, with worker shortages in manufacturing, and there’s a concern that if you hold out for the best possible talent, those candidates may be gone by the time you’re ready to pull the trigger on a possible new employee.

But that’s a risk you need to be willing to take, because the alternative to not having someone fill a role is to have someone terrible fill it. In many ways, you’d be better off not having someone than trying to fix all the problems and errors a terrible employee will make.

Slow to hire, fast to fire is the idea that you take your time in hiring new talent in order to make sure you find the best available associates for your business. You don’t rush out and fill roles just to have them filled. You have hiring costs, onboarding costs, training costs to consider, and firing someone for being a bad fit only increases those costs because you have to hire that person’s replacement.

Being fast to fire also means getting rid of someone who is a bad fit, either because they’re not good at their job or because their personality doesn’t mesh with the rest of your team. A poor associate can spread their particular malignancy like a cancer throughout your enterprise and undo years of hard work in building a great organization.

Why Slow to Hire, Fast to Fire is Important

Two women meeting for an interview. This is where slow to hire, fast to fire starts.Let’s say your terrible new employee isn’t so terrible and only 50% of their work has to be redone — 50% of their products needed to be remade, 50% of their order entry errors needed to be re-entered, or 50% of their customer invoices had an incorrect total on them.

In repairing those problems, you have to look at how much time is being spent in fixing errors on top of doing their regular work. That is, if an associate on the factory floor is only 50% effective, he or she needs to be four times as productive just to achieve 100% productivity.

If someone has to correct 50% of their invoices that means half of your invoices are either undercharged or overcharged and you’re losing money or giving refunds.

Even if your terrible new employee only had a 10% error rate, that’s still too high: A 10% error rate means a lost day of effective work every two weeks.

If anything, now is the best time to be practicing the slow to hire, fast to fire philosophy, because this is how you are going to build a stellar organization that can excel as things improve.

This Philosophy Even Solves Customer Complaints

The world is getting more demanding, not less. And I’ve noticed more and more organizations, from the medical profession to car dealerships, asking us to invest our own time in taking surveys, which I usually won’t do.

Sure, I understand the company wants to get better. But if they really wanted to get better, they would go through their complaints department and analyze the complaints they get, rather than bothering us with surveys.

The complaints department will reveal a pattern of issues and problems that may not come across in the surveys. Maybe they didn’t like your salespeople. Maybe getting parts is too complicated and burdensome. Maybe they had repeat problems with their payments being recorded.

Once you analyzed those complaints, you might notice where the problems are. Are the complaints about the salespeople? Is there a bottleneck in your parts department? Is someone in Accounts Payable messing up all the recorded payments?

Once you identify those problems, the trick is to fire that person FAST. That will clear up a lot of complaints, reduce people’s anger at your company, and lead to more and happier customers. You’ll identify the people who are inhibiting your progress, ignoring your processes, and bringing down your overall customer satisfaction.

Then you can replace them with someone more capable of the work. Identify people who have the attitude and aptitude for the function you want them to perform. Or hire the people who don’t have the experience but have the aptitude for learning the function you want them to perform. Yes, there will be a learning curve, but they’ll shortly be better than the person you’re replacing them with.

How Do You Find Viable Candidates When You’re Slow to Hire?

Depending on the roles you’re trying to fill, you may find that most of your talent is getting snapped up before you can make them a job offer. That’s fine. There are a few ways to fill those jobs.

For one thing, go through your retirement rolls. Invite people back to help and work around their schedule. That can buy you some very precious time. My belief is that if you kept them around the company long enough to retire, they were good enough to meet your standards during their tenure. If you can bridge the gap by recalling people who know your culture, you could get an awful lot done in a very short space of time.

You could also call people who maybe didn’t leave under a bad cloud, but it was overcast that day. They can make the decision and you can give them the opportunity to come back.

Another option is to recruit other people from partners companies. But don’t poach them, especially from your competitors, because they’ll do it to you and you’ll be back where you started. Talk to your partner and tell them you’re interested in talking with that employee. Poaching them will only create bad feelings with your partner and ruin a profitable relationship.

I’ve been a manufacturing executive, as well as a sales and marketing professional, for a few decades. Now I help companies turn around their own business, including pivoting within their industry. If you would like more information, please visit my website and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

Photo credit: Styles66 (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)

Author: David Marshall
I’ve been a manufacturing executive, as well as a sales and marketing professional, for a few decades. Now I help companies turn around their own business. If you would like more information, please visit my website and connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.