Columns , Leadership

Bad hire or bad hiring?

Be honest with yourself. Did you rush the job candidate through the interview? Did you miss any warning signs? Did you quiz the references? Does your onboarding and training program need an overhaul?

Bad hire or bad hiring?
Sometimes, a new hire clearly doesn’t fit.

After you spend time and money advertising for job candidates and interviewing them — and then selecting someone you believed would be a great addition to your veterinary practice team — it can be quite disheartening when the new hire just isn’t working out.

You think back through the hiring process, the resume that showed all the right credentials, the stellar references, and the new hire’s great answers throughout the interview. And yet, the person isn’t working out. So, what do you do now? It depends.

Before you decide that someone isn’t doing the job she was hired for, take an honest look at your onboarding processes and training procedures. Are you providing new hires with what they need to be successful? Or is training always going to take place “tomorrow” or “next week”? If your onboarding and training suffer from lack of quality, then you should start there. If not, you might lose a potentially great employee because of improper or inadequate training.

Sometimes, of course, a new hire clearly doesn’t fit — perhaps she argued with co-workers on Day One. In that case, you might decide not to invest any more time and energy in the person.

Having said that, avoid this training trap: Let’s say you agree that your onboarding program isn’t the best but that previous employees figured out how to succeed without it. You are tempted to think that all employees should be able to navigate the job without optimal training. But, in reality, everyone is different and such a mindset will ultimately hurt the practice.

Now, assume that, yes, your new hire is getting quality training but the situation doesn’t look good. What’s next?

Talk About the Performance

Now you need to have a forthright conversation with the new hire, asking about her concerns and sharing your perceptions about her performance. Holding off on this potentially tough conversation can be tempting in the hope that all will improve or to avoid a confrontation. However, having a frank discussion is the best avenue for finding possible solutions.

Be specific about your concerns and listen carefully to what she has to say. What misunderstandings can be corrected? What feedback can you offer to help her perform her duties more effectively? Could she shine in another position? What insights can you gather from the conversation to help bulletproof your hiring, onboarding and training procedures?

Ideally, the two of you will devise methods to get back on track. It’s possible the new hire will acknowledge that the situation isn’t right for her, which is a step forward. If a solution is apparent, create a concrete plan containing specific tasks, benchmarks and deadlines — and stick to them.

Cons of Continuing On

Sometimes, as you invest more and more time in a hire, you can go too far and be unwilling to give up even when the time is right to do so. Be sure to calculate the costs associated with keeping an employee who isn’t performing to standards, both in the wages and the resources being expended to oversee her performance. Plus, if other employees are having to take on more work — whether because of the new hire’s errors and missed deadlines or the reduced quality of work — that carries a cost as well.

In a worst-case scenario, hiring the wrong person opens an employer to the consequences of negligent hiring. Under this doctrine, if your practice hired someone who then harmed a third party — and you knew or should have known about the possibility — then you can be held liable for the harm caused. Negligent hiring tends to be associated with employees who have criminal backgrounds, but doing due diligence on all candidates is important.

A Time for Self-Reflection

Let’s say you need to tell your most recent hire that her employment is being terminated. Now you’re in the position of having to hire again, making this an ideal time to determine whether you had a one-off case of a bad hire or your overall hiring practices are bad.

Through the experience, what did you learn about your training program? Do any red flags stand out when you review your interview notes? Should you have recognized the warning signs during the interview — maybe you didn’t give them enough weight — or do you see them only in retrospect? In either case, what can you learn to improve your hiring processes?

Why New Hires Fail

A Leadership IQ study shared that 46% of new employees will fail within 18 months and that 19% will be clear successes. What’s interesting is that people don’t typically fail at a new workplace due to a lack of technical skills. Instead, lesser interpersonal skills are the main culprit — something that, in retrospect, many managers admitted they didn’t focus on during the interview.

In fact, according to the study, 82% of managers saw subtle cues that could have alerted them that the candidate was the wrong person to hire. But because the managers were focusing on other attributes or were hurrying or lacked confidence in their ability to interview and hire, they gave the green light to the wrong hire.

Improve Your Hiring Practices

To avoid making mistakes, look for four key attributes, or soft skills, in a job candidate:

  • Coachability.
  • Emotional intelligence.
  • Motivation.
  • Temperament.

Because technical competence can be easier to measure, these softer skills can be easily overlooked. Savvy managers who focus on soft skills, though, are likely to succeed more in finding candidates who truly fill needed roles.

As you learn to improve your hiring practices, document what went wrong with bad hires and list how the hiring process will be amended for better results. Other ways to improve include being crystal clear about your company’s values throughout the entire interview process and about the specific role that needs filling.

Each time you need to fill a role, make sure the job description is comprehensive and up to date, and focus on soft skills and other intangibles during the process.

During the interview, be clear about your expectations. For example, if you want a practice manager to be aggressive about growth and acquiring clients, let the candidate know. This will alert laidback candidates that the fit might not be the best and, by strategically asking related questions, the interviewer will more likely make the right hiring decision.

Use your team’s expertise when hiring. If you need a new technician, ask your technicians what they want to see in a new hire, and consider having them participate in the interview process.

Also, be very thorough when conducting reference checks. Simply asking a job candidate for references is not enough. Take the time to contact a few of the references to get a feel for the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. Ask behavioral questions so you get an idea of how the potential hire would fit into your practice’s culture.

Hiring an employee is never easy. Don’t rush the process by hiring the first person who applies. Doing that will likely hurt your practice, both financially and culturally, in the long run. Make sure the new hire is worth the time to train, and then make sure your training is of high quality. Doing this will lead to a happy practice and new employee.

H.R. Huddle columnist Kellie G. Olah is a human resources consultant at Veterinary Business Advisors Inc. Learn more at www.veterinarybusinessadvisors.com.

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