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The hire and fire dilemma: Handling start-up workforce

Posted: 09 Apr 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:startup  workforce  Hire Slow  Fire Fast  hiring 

One of the early stages of workforce development is the hiring process. While there is no exact science in terms of finding the best "fit" for any company, applicants or prospects are evaluated based on certain qualifications and of course, the personal assessment of the hiring manager.

Much has been written about the hiring process and the most commonly used cliché today on this topic is probably "Hire Slow, Fire Fast." It is not without its detractors, especially in the start-up world where the word "slow" is abhorred, but this approach has a proven track record.

Does it apply to the agile start-up model? Let's explore this further.

The formula "Hire Slow, Fire Fast" is based on the sound tenet that a company cannot afford to employ the wrong people. Those bad hires will slow the team down, consume excessive management time and can make the work environment around them toxic. It does not take many bad hires, who in turn make bad hires, to generate the proverbial "bozo explosion." Hence, the cost to the company's performance of bad hires is so great that every care should be taken during the recruiting. And, a mistake should be handled diligently.

No one would argue with the latter part of "Hire Slow, Fire Fast" once management recognises that a new employee is a misfit, it is the right thing to break the relationship and usually best for both sides. In my experience, firings related to performance are not nearly as painful as expected for the manager. I have spent sleepless nights fearing the tough "You are fired" conversation, only to find that it was not a surprise to the employee and there was a sense of relief.

It is important to emphasise that firing fast should be done professionally with the utmost respect for the person affected. Not firing someone who is not a good fit or not competent at the job is unfair to the rest of the team. If that is not motivation enough, it's important to remember that the employee did not perform well in one company but offers valuable skills and might thrive in a different environment. Always think that you might encounter this person in the future when he or she has achieved great success and their decisions can impact your business. How do you want to be remembered at that meeting?

Let's get to the more contentious part now, the "hire slow." The choice of the word "slow" is somewhat misleading, probably deliberately to create controversy and readership for the book that was written on this topic. The "hire smart" formula seems more appropriate. This starts with having a purpose. In other words, being able to articulate clearly the requirements of the position.

Check all the signals

The second part of the "smart" process would be to test the candidates. Many interviews are limited to checking the personality of the candidate. This is important and critical to expose the candidate to many if not all of his or her future colleagues. It is a mistake, however, to omit a clear explanation to the candidate of the technical requirements and not test him or her accordingly. This is easier for well-defined technical job functions but, with creativity, tests can be conceived for all positions.

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