The New Guy Can’t Type: How to Handle a Hiring Blunder

A college friend of mine and his wife visited for lunch last week. He mentioned keeping my blog open and unread on his browser for days (I was flattered, regardless). “Ryan,” he said,

I would love to read about strategy and innovation. But I just hired a guy as a customer service rep and he can’t type more than 30 words a minute! How do I deal with that?!

Successful leaders can’t close the door to the corner office and fiddle with their competitive market share optimization strategies all day. Leadership includes identifying and resolving the challenges that hold the team back right now. Unexpectedly welcoming a dud into your team creates risks with your customers, frustrates your other high-performing staff, and saps your own productivity. And yes, that sound you hear in the background is your lawyer dog-earing the pages of the latest  Hemmacher Schlemmer catalog in expectant glee of an early termination going ugly.

Here are five tips to navigate the situation and prevent another misfit from slipping through your hiring process:

  1. Document, document, document: ensure your expectations, and your employee’s acceptance of them, are documented clearly in writing (email will do).
  2. Ensure the employee understands the specific performance gap, accepts responsibility for changing, and the consequences (both positive and negative.) Some leaders are reluctant to cause any additional stress that could further degrade performance (see diagram),
    Don't allow fear of pushing struggling employees further to the right on this curve prevent you from communicating a performance gap. Maybe they are on the far left?

    however, the gap must be common knowledge. As I wrote in my three-part coaching model, a manager can provide a vision of success and skills to get there, but the motivation must come from the employee.

  3. Talk to your other employees as soon as you recognize the risk. In an objective, discrete, and respectful manner, make sure the other employees in the area “know that you know” and are doing something about it. In addition to protecting your (eternally fragile) credibility, this message then allows the other employees an opportunity to coach the struggling new hire.
  4. Don’t be afraid to move on: it’s business. Often a business’ most scarce commodity, leadership discretionary time, unwittingly flows towards struggling employees. Once you’ve made a clear, genuine, and respectful effort to correct performance without any tangible change, it is likely time to part ways.
  5. Capture the feedback to improve your hiring process. Whether your business has 5 employees or 5,000 the people responsible for hiring take pride in getting the best people they can. Do you need more behavioral interview questions? An extra practical/case study with an open written response section? A few quick multiple choice questions to screen out psychopaths? No hiring process is perfect, but each one can be “tuned” by positive and negative experiences.
(note: this post does not offer and should not be mistaken for legal advice. You are responsible for understanding applicable labor laws and practices. Please seek professional help if you need it! The Department of Labor offers the basics online)