Saturday, August 18, 2007

Hire Slow, Fire Fast

I've read several books in the areas of people management and building effective organizations. All of them echo the same message - "Hire Slow, Fire Fast". But, I've seen companies doing just the opposite. Companies/managers hurry to hire a person due to project pressures. They don't hire GREAT people. They just settle for AVERAGE people who may be good at one particular thing. When the project is over, they don't know what to do with that person. They try to put the person in a different project and realize that the person is not suitable for that. Nor, is the person willing to learn the new technology/skill. They give him/her time to learn. But, the person doesn't learn. They put him/her in a performance improvement plan. The person shows slight improvement. They think that the person has 'good' attitude and they just end up keeping him/her in the job. The person gets fired only when there is a real 'crisis'.

When you hire a GREAT person, your benefits get doubled. First of all, he/she contributes a lot to the product/project. Second of all, he/she will also help others in the group to perform better. At the same time, if you hire an AVERAGE person, you get beatings twice. First of all, he/she doesn't contribute what is expected out of him/her. Second of all, someone (usually, the performer) has to help him/her to perform even their day-to-day work. Indirectly, you are affecting the productivity of the performers, too.

When you complain to the management about the inefficiency of AVERAGE performers, you'll most likely hear the 'five fingers story'. "Note... Not all the team members can be STAR performers. Look at your fingers. They're not alike. But you need them all to do your tasks. Similarly, do not expect everyone to contribute the same to the project/product". I pity these managers. They have actually 'mis-understood' the five fingers story. The real message behind the 'five fingers story' is - each of the team members will bring-in different skills/expertise to the project/product. The combined set of skills/expertise will help to achieve the project/product goals/milestones. So far, I've not come across a manager who embraces this theory when building teams. At the end of the day, a manager has to realize that we are not running a 'charity institution' to give jobs to 'everyone'.

Companies have adopted lineant hiring policies and tough firing policies. If a person in the team is not 'rising' up to the challenges, the person is not fired right away. He/She is given time after time after time to improve. Or, the manager is not 'bold' enough to make the tough decision. There are managers who want to 'demonstrate' their people management skills by trying to 'get the best' out of the non-performers. There are managers who want to keep a 'proper mix' of performers vs non-performers in order to maintain the salary structure, performance incentives etc., There are managers who do not want to keep 'smart' folks under them - so that, subordinates will always say "Yes!" to every decision they make. To me, all these are 'absurd'. Once again, we are not running 'charity instituitions'. We are running 'business'. We want the company to be profitable. Shareholders do not invest money into the company to give jobs to 'everyone'. They want to get 'good returns' on their investments.

If you are a manager, you should take time to hire GREAT folks, and shouldn't think twice before firing NON-PERFORMERS. Hire Slow, Fire Fast

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