Having trouble with a new employee who showed so much promise when you hired him a few months ago? This is a common problem that plagues many start-up companies.
Twenty-five years ago, when it was just myself and my fourth attempt at having a real employee, I was just as frustrated as you are. The first three turned out to be bad hires and a fourth attempt was looking like a glaring repeat of the other three.I owned a franchise then and was blessed with a wise trainer who worked for the franchiser. He often helped me in my dilemma by asking one poignant question. His question this time was simply this: "Did you hire the wrong person, or did you ruin him after you hired him?"
Now, there is a question that cuts to the core. Most of us, I believe, are so inept at the hiring process, especially when we first start a business, that if someone breathes and shows up for the interview, we often hire him, sometimes on the spot.
Here are some ways employees "get ruined" in new start-ups:
1. They haven't been trained. Most entrepreneurs are so overwhelmed with the many tasks facing them that they merely point to the new employee's desk, bark out a few instructions, and then put their own head down and keep on working. I suggest a few assigned tasks, elementary at first, that will not only train the new person but also help you accomplish your own tasks.
2. Failure to receive feedback. Don't assume the new employee knows that he is doing something right or wrong. But when you "catch" him doing something the way you want it done, be sure and compliment him.
3. They are coping with personal problems. I have never had an employee go through a divorce without suffering major performance problems at work - sometimes for months at a time. A supportive employer can provide a listening ear. Equally important, however, is maintaining performance standards and consistency in your expectations at this crucial time.
4. Lack of mental ability. While it is occasionally difficult to detect lack of mental capacity in the interview, sometimes we hire people to perform tasks that they just cannot do. In this case, quick termination is often best for both the employer and the employee. In a start-up environment, the entrepreneur needs 100 percent performance from his employees to make the company successful. Later, when the company is more stable, there can be allowances made for a mentally challenged employee.
5. They are lazy. While some of my readers may disagree, I believe many employees will work only as hard as they have to. A big part of training is explaining to new employees exactly what is expected and then checking up on them often to reinforce desired results. Another of my favorite expressions is that employees "do what is inspected, not what is expected."
6. They have greater expectations than we are prepared to deliver. Some new employees feel because there are just the two or three of you, their contributions are equal to yours and therefore they should be a part owner or a partner. They often forget the risk you have taken or the sacrifices you have already made, sometimes for months, years or decades.
Occasionally, we have no choice but to fire someone. As new employers, many of us would rather do just about anything than fire an unsatisfactory employee. Unfortunately, unfired employees can speed along an untimely death of your new business.
Let me encourage you to do two things differently in the future. First, spend more time in the hiring process so you find the best people available to help you build your business. If you do that, you won't have to terminate so many "bad hires." And second, ask yourself how you would feel if a problem employee quit. If you would feel relieved, then I would encourage you to terminate the person. It could be the best thing for both of you. I have been hurt more business-wise by the people I didn't let go than the ones I did let go.