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Fire or Retrain? Deciding if an Employee is Worth Salvaging

    Fire or Retrain? Deciding if an Employee is Worth Salvaging

    By Cheri Bakerof Emergence Consulting

    It’s happened to all of us.  You hire an employee who seemed like a great fit, but they are failing to thrive.  The problems might show up right away or emerge after a period of years. Either way, you need to make that tough decision. Do you fire them or do you retrain them? In short, are you managing them out or giving them an opportunity to improve?

    It's a difficult decision! On the one hand, you've invested so much in this employee already. You may know them as a person and feel obligated to give them every chance for success. On the other hand you don't want to simply delay the inevitable, if it is inevitable. You don't want to spend your time bailing water out of a sinking ship.

    It is possible to distinguish between employees who are likely to improve and those who are not. Here are some signs to watch for:

    Develop Employees Who:

    1. Acknowledge that they need to improve.
    2. Seek out feedback on how they can get better.
    3. Take responsibility for their lapses.
    4. Demonstrate that they can take action to improve performance.
    5. Demonstrate that they can maintain performance improvements over time.
    6. Lack skills that can be developed by a trainer, boss or coach.

    Terminate Employees Who:

    1. Blame others instead of taking responsibility.
    2. Need to be "prodded" into improving performance.
    3. Say they will improve, but don't seem to put in the effort.
    4. Lack competencies that are very difficult to develop (ethics, integrity, salesmanship, empathy, etc.).
    5. Make short term improvements but are unable to sustain them without frequent reminders.

    Sometimes you have an employee who straddles the line between "bad fit" and "trainable" and it can be a very difficult call to make. In all cases, setting a clear timeline for improvement, being clear about what success looks like, and making sure that everyone understands what is at stake are all good strategies. 

    It wouldn’t be fair to fire one employee right away while giving another many chances to improve, but nor would it be smart to sink time and energy into an employee who is a poor fit.  HR can provide a valuable service to management by helping them balance fairness with common sense.

    Reprinted from the Enlightened Manager Blog

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