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Worried about a new hire? ‘Salvage operation’ tips

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in Hiring,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Included in HR Weekly e-letter -- june 19, 2007, free story

Most managers have faced this dilemma at least once in their careers: A candidate looks great on paper and gives a knockout interview; but two weeks into the new job, you're less than enthused.

The new employee doesn't show that same initiative or smarts that you thought you saw in the interview. You now have a choice: Cut your losses or run a salvage operation.

If you ultimately decide that the employee definitely isn't right for the job, do both of you a favor and cut the ties soon (after discussing the matter with HR).

But maybe the employee shows promise and you're not ready to give up just yet. If that's the case, here are some tips and points to consider in running this salvage operation:

1. Rethink your expectations. Is the employee really wrong for the job? Maybe your expectations were too high. If the person wowed you in the interview, maybe you expected instant miracles. If so, re-examine your thinking.

2. Is it a matter of style? People often confuse style and substance. Perhaps it's the way the employee operates, rather than what he or she delivers, that's giving you heartburn. If so, having a heart-to-heart talk about your corporate culture and what you deem acceptable may resolve the problem.

3. Ratchet up the training. When new hires don't fit, they may not understand enough about how the organization operates or what they're expected to do. Their failure may be one of asking too few questions, not an inability to do the job. Consider an investment in additional training.

4. Create a buddy system. Having a sounding board or mentor is a critical help in navigating a new job. Consider pairing the new hire up with someone whose counsel he can seek.

5. Ensure clear expectations. Does the employee really know what you expect? You may have run through the job description on day one, but that may have been a blur to the employee. Sit down and clarify in more detail what's expected in terms of quality and quantity of work, plus behavior.

6. Manage more closely. New employees in trouble can't be given the same degree of autonomy and trust as high achievers who meet every expectation. For the salvage operation to work, frequent meetings detailing projects, deadlines and checkpoints will be crucial.

7. Consider an internal transfer. If you believe the employee can still be productive yet you are unhappy with the match, explore whether there's another place in the organization where the person's style and skills will be a better fit.

Final tips: When new hires go off-track so quickly, review the recruiting/hiring/training process with HR to see where it went wrong. Unless you can identify where the disconnect occurred—elevated expectations, vague interview questions, eagerness to be done with the hiring process, etc.—it'll be easy to make the same mistake in the future.

Also, consider whether anyone made promises of long-term employment during the interview process that could come back to haunt the organization. Does the employee have a contract (even an implied one) or bring along any key contacts from his past job that you can't afford to lose? These are topics to discuss with HR before cutting the worker loose. 

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