Staff Changes - When to Part Ways

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When it comes to winning the talent game, one half of the equation is getting the best people to join your team. But the other half is recognizing--quickly--when it's time to let someone go. Leadership IQ reports that almost half (46%) of all new hires fail in less than two years.

According to Aaron Skonnard's (CEO/Pluralsight) recent article in Inc. Magazine, the hiring game isn't over until about 24 months after the hire takes place.

He explains:

There are a number of common reasons for letting someone go, from failing to perform up to standards, to being less qualified than he or she originally appeared to be. However, deeper and more problematic issues might stem from attitude problems or misalignment with the company's core values.

Aaron provides the following three checks when evaluating staff:

  • Emphasize cultural fit over competency.
  • Act quickly.
  • Trust the team.

Emphasize cultural fit over competency

In my career, I've hired (or been involved in hiring) several employees--analysts to architects, business specialist to C-level executive. In my last job sector (public education), cultural fit was king.

Every potential hire had to have the right mindset for working in education (and the public sector in general) where everyone's a customer and the culture varied (spending a month with kindergarteners and kindergarten teachers to understand true customer demands--crying and naptime included).

Act quickly

Acting (and firing) quickly can be difficult, especially for a technical position. Have you not properly evaluated their skills? Are they just ramping up to your environment? ... or is it truly a poor fit for the company?

I prefer to have a good foundation of their experience, whether it's a techinical exercise (via consulting) or project in mind when a new hire comes on board. However, evaluating technical ability is far easier than cultural fit. To check for cultural fit (beyond the obvious screams and tears), I must rely on the team...

Trust the team

Personally, I prefer optimizing, providing, and facilitating over "managing."  I enjoy working with a team that's capable and confident. Mistakes can happen, but I always see my role as one to pave the way for success rather than hovering.

The same applies for hiring, teams, and integrating. It sucks being the "new guy." We've all been there. As part of the aforementioned cultural fit, the integration process falls to both sides--the new hire and the existing team. I rely on the team to pull someone new into the mix, get them situated, and then help determine if they're a good fit.

My best practice

In practice, I prefer to use consulting and temporary work in leiu of a direct hire. In a prior position, the hiring practices were easy, the firing practices were monumental. Once an employee got past two weeks, it took nearly an act of congress to remove them assuming no one had died.  That's terrible for the team.

Whether it's through a hiring agency or off the street, my experience lead me to bringing in contact-to-hire teams. We'd work through a 1-3 month contract and have a real look into how that person integrated into the team--both culturally and technologically.  From there, we were ready to either hire or move on--no harm done to either side.  In my opinion, it provides a fantastic avenue to "try before you buy" and make the right hires for your team.


  • hiring
  • career
  • culture
  • politics
author photo - David Longnecker by David Longnecker

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