Put details in writing to help in hiring and firing

score Question:
I keep hiring employees and then after a few months find that they are not working out and I need to let them go, then search for a new employee. I don't like firing them, and maybe I'm not doing them justice in the training I give them. Is there a sure-fire way to make this work?

I don't think anyone likes to fire an employee; I know I didn't.

Maybe the best way is to let the employee fire himself, but that could take forever. What I mean is, most employees try to do the best job they can, but some derail in spite of their best intentions. The job changes and the person isn't suited, they get bored or complacent, get into interpersonal battles or their personality isn't what you thought when they were hired.

Sometimes it doesn't have anything to do with ability, but they don't have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. I've seen a number of employers who don't spend the necessary time on the front end but they sure are there with the criticism when te performance doesn't measure up to their phantom standards.

This is what I call managing by mental telepathy and then saying "gotcha."

It's virtually important for everyone - the owner, the manager and the employees - to know what their goals are. To ensure that there is no misunderstanding, these goals must be in writing and should be updated in writing when conditions change. Make sure everyone gets a copy.

In doing this, you need to balance the needs of the business, your nees and the needs of other employees. It's like a three-legged stool: When it's out of balance, you need to take corrective action.

Develop job descriptions for each position you have. This essentially describes the duties, responsibilities, goals and the authority given to the employee. Each position must a have a job description; during interviews, each person must be given a copy of the description of the job they are applying for. When they are hired, there can be no misunderstanding regarding what is expected of them.

Let them know what the consequences could be. In many cases the employee doesn't realize how serious it is until you say. "It's only fair to tell you that if you don't get with it, I'll have to let you go."

Have they been counseled during the training period on the correct way to complete their work? This is the major area where I find most small business owners come up short. It's an ongoing process, and you can't just hire them and let them go.

They must be told that you are there to help them get started, and then you must follow through with coaching, training and any reasonable assistance. Set a specific timeline by which they must demonstrate that they are learning the job.

If employees complete the various steps of the training, let them know how well they are doing and what they've accomplished. If it doesn't work out, the employee knows you both gave it everything you could.

At the first sign of performance problems with employees, watch for a pattern and then address it immediately before they make it a habit. Make it clear that it's their responsibility to solve the problem.

If repeated attempts to improve continue to fail, the conversation needs to get more pointed, and time frames need to be established.

Bill Bryan is a counselor with the Service Corps of Retired Executives. SCORE offers counseling, workshops and seminars on small business operations. You can reach Bryan through SCORE, 515 N Court St. 815-962-0122, for information and appointments.

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