By Brandon Dempsey, partner and chief marketing strategist of goBRANDgo!.
Recruiting and hiring people is tough mental work, and firing them is tough emotional work. It's easy to build on the positive momentum of an excited new employee. But what happens when that positive momentum doesn't sustain over time? As your business grows, your talent needs to grow along with it. If your people are not able to grow, then letting them go is necessary. Otherwise, they will hold your business back.
Even though firing employees hasn't become any easier, the key points below can help the process run more smoothly:
1. Determine whether it's a culture clash or a skills issue.
When you sense an employee isn't going to work out, it's important to assess whether it's a cultural issue or a skills issue. This distinction will set your course on how to proceed. If it's a culture issue, take swift action. Quickly exit the employee from your organization -- they are negatively impacting your team's happiness, productivity and fulfillment. Waiting to remove someone who is adversely impacting your culture could cost you good talent. Every action and decision you and your employees take constantly remolds the culture of your company. When it's a skills issue, establish a timeframe for the employee to improve, allowing them to set the date and track their progress. Employees almost always set more challenging goals for themselves than managers set for them, and if they know they can't make it, they will often find another job before the time is up.
2. Listen to their co-workers.
When someone isn't working out, the best place to find out why is the people they interact with. When assessing whether it's time to let someone go, have conversations with the people they work with. Take your team members out to coffee for a one-on-one discussion about how their departments are doing. Letting employees know that the boss has a good feel for the pulse of the organization is a great way to build and maintain trust.
3. Don't let personal issues become work issues.
Ever had an employee suddenly become a different person at work? Or the person you hired isn't the person who is showing up to work every day? In this case, the employee is likely struggling with a personal issue. Give them an ear and they will likely acknowledge that their work is suffering. Then, set a clear action plan and milestones for what you need the employee to accomplish or change, and how you as their manager can help to get them back on track. Setting the plan together reminds employees that they are in charge of their work output. In some cases, an employee may foresee that they won't be able to make the required adjustments to succeed and will leave the organization on their own. If that doesn't happen, and it's time to let them go, refer back to the action plan you set together and the progress you've documented when having the conversation.
4. Treat people like humans.
Your employees all have emotions, families and issues going on in their lives. When it's time to terminate someone, make sure you've done everything you can to help them try to work through the issue. Set time-bound action plans, and if the employee hasn't improved, simply refer back to the agreements you made together. Ask how you can help them land somewhere else that's a better fit for their personality and skill set. Also, while providing a severance package of some type may not change their feeling toward you or the organization, it can put your mind at ease knowing you did what you could to avoid leaving them in a bad spot.
Almost every time I've had a hiring or firing issue, it has been a result of failing to follow this philosophy: "Hire slowly; fire quickly." No, "fire quickly" doesn't mean terminating employees on a whim without proper thought. It means when you have made the careful decision to let an employee go, you should act immediately.
People are all unique, and your culture is formed and reshaped every day by the behaviors and attitudes within your company. Keeping people in the organization who fit your mission, vision and values are essential to the success of any business.
Brandon Dempsey is a partner and the chief marketing strategist of goBRANDgo!.