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Hiring - The Million Dollar Decision (cont.)...

What if it is a bad decision?

You may be thinking, "If it is a bad decision, I can just fire that person. I'll just be out whatever the acquisition/recruiting cost were."

If only it were so simple. Most employers don't have that luxury. Even in "at will" states that theoretically allow dismissal of employees for any reason or no reason at all (sometimes called "without cause") there are other factors that act against such behaviors. It is beyond the scope of this article to explore these, but I do want to mention a couple of factors that weigh in on such behaviors.

Perhaps it wasn't clear at the beginning that it was a bad decision.

Maybe you invested time, effort, and incentives to help the employee improve (after all, you made the decision to hire him or her--you are likely to try whatever it takes to avoid having to admit to making a bad decision). So now you have more cost invested in the employee than we discussed already.

Finally, it becomes apparent that the employee can't do the job -- or can't do it well enough to make you a profit instead of a loss. How long has it taken to come to this point? Three months? Six months? A year? (Again, you may be thinking "A year? Who could go a year like that?" It depends on just how 'not adequate' the employee is. The more borderline the employee, the longer it takes to finally realize that it just isn't going to work.)

Or perhaps it seemed like a good decision at the time but you then discovered that the candidate/employee lacked essential skills to do the job. If they are skills like learning to type, work a cash register, or operate a hand press, then you can probably get them trained and salvage the situation. If the skills are intellectual ones, like, oh, say, understanding Monte Carlo statistical theory, then they may not have the aptitude or time to acquire them.

Often, a new employee will work hard to impress (both in the interview and later on the job) but eventually run out of steam from trying to cover that they are not really competent for the job. Then you discover that you made a bad hiring decision.

Or perhaps they have all the skills you want or need. But their personality is not a good fit for your company or work team. While they may "earn their keep" with their skills, if it makes the rest of the team unproductive, you may be heading into a money sinkhole. It seemed like a good decision at the time. And now, you have to use your management skills to either fix the situation or use them to replace the person. More costs. And time. And distraction.

Even in low-paying, low-skilled jobs, turnover results in a significant cost. Retention of good employees is always cheaper than replacing them. So, even in the lower-paying arena, the cost is high. The more you can do to get good employees in to start with, the further ahead you are.


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