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May 24, 2017

The time has come for you to add someone new to your team, and with that comes enormous pressure.  You have learned from past hiring experience show difficult it is to find stellar people and you want to ensure you are not wasting your time, money, and energy. You need to get this right the first time!  

Similarly, there are times you need to say goodbye to some of your “falling stars” and allow them to succeed at another organization! Terminating an employee is most definitely easier said than done, and there many factors that come into play to assure that you and your organization is protected. Let’s take some time to review hiring and firing tips so that you can be successful in both.

Secrets to Hiring Stars:

As you may have already discovered, high caliber employees can make or break an organization and they are the foundation for a company to become profitable.  Potential hires that look good on paper do not always guarantee a good fit; alternatively, an applicant that doesn’t shine in an interview may turn out to be a better performer.

Here are some simple steps you can follow to ensure you do not miss a vital piece of your hiring puzzle.


Develop a Strong Reputation  

When your organization is known in your industry as an employer of choice, you will have much easier time finding and attracting top talent. Star employees are drawn to companies with a reputation to take care of their employees and truly care about their well being.

You have heard many times that our current workforce is made up of FOUR different generations,and each of those groups are attracted to different perks.  To name a few examples, Millennials seek employers who offer remote work arrangements, working mothers appreciate a flexible schedule, and baby boomers rely on strong benefit plans.


Identify Your Why

Why this position? Why right now?

It is imperative to be clear on your reasons for hiring or you will risk spending massive amounts of resources on a position that isn’t going to improve your organization. It is important to state for yourself and the team the reasons for hiring this position, now, in a concrete sense. Many times, people are hired to just “fill a gap”.  Make sure that the “gap” is necessary to fill or determine if you can take this opportunity to restructure the team and better utilize your current resources.

As you develop your “Why”, also determine the ultimate intent of the role. Assure that you have a consistent, overriding point of focus which will allow the person to grasp the primary reason he or she is being added to your team, and what they will be held accountable for.


Develop Your Hiring Strategy

Before delving into further details about the role, you should wait until you know who will be weighing in on the decision of whom to hire. Your hiring team needs to include at a minimum, the direct supervisor of the person being hired, at least one peer,and the managing director of the team.

As you go through the process, it is imperative that it’s clear to this team who is leading the process, who is conducting interviews, and how each person should expect to be involved along the way. This is critical both for making sure that as much relevant perspective is included in the decision and for ensuring buy-in when someone is selected and on-boarded into the organization.

Have a clear set of guidelines during the interview process which will help with confirmation bias.  You want to make sure that you avoid making snap judgments as hiring decisions.  It’s always best practice to ask each applicant for a specific role the same interview questions.  You can always add in follow up questions,but the primary questions need to be consistent.


Attitude Over Aptitude

When it comes to choosing your next hire, you will most likely have better future success when you choose someone with a good work ethic versus a perfect skill set. Most technical knowledge can be trained; however, behaviors, personality and attributes cannot be easily changed to fit a role. Someone who is passionate about your brand and organization will do whatever it takes to ensure that your company is successful.


Quick Legal Tips When Hiring!

Check with your HR Advisor or legal counsel for more info…

  • Do not discriminate based on race, color, gender, religion, disability status, etc.
  • Respect the applicant’s right to privacy: marital situation, economic background, personal life.
  • Do not imply things you cannot deliver: job security, benefits.
  • Observe all laws relating to minimum wage, hiring young or immigrant workers.
  • Follow the IRS guidelines for hiring independent contractors.
  • Follow all IRS and State new hiring requirements.

When to Free Your Falling Stars:

Now comes the tough part – how to make the move when it’s time to set your employees free to “excel at another organization”. Here are some steps on how to make sure you are making the best decision and how to protect your organization in the process.

It is important to remember that the eyes of other employees as well as your senior management will be on you as you walk through this termination process. It is a stressful process for you, your team, and for the employee.  Terminating an employee right can help you out and get you through the rough process, but doing it wrong can have lasting effects on you and your organization in many ways.


Give the employee the opportunity to improve or leave first

Realizing that you made a bad hire or that your current employee is not going in the direction that you need for success can be a hard pill to swallow.  Even though it may be easier in the short term to cross your fingers and hope that they improve on their own, the truth is that you need to act sooner than later. The first step is to have a conversation with the employee and express your concerns.  Give them the opportunity to explain the situation or realize on their own that this is not the best fit (always the best outcome).  If they do not improve or quit on their own, now is the time to move toward your next steps.

Never fire an employee in anger.  If you are in the“tell me about it meeting” and things get heated, take the time for a cooling off period so that you can fully evaluate the situation.


Get Help and Backing

Your Human Resources department (if applicable), your supervisor, and at times legal counsel should be consulted and utilized as much as possible during the termination process. Seek out and use any help that is available to you and appropriate in your specific situation and organization.  Always follow your company’s termination policy and procedure!

Best practice suggests another person assist you and be present during the actual termination interview.  They can be a witness and take notes, but the primary purpose for an additional person is to observe and document the meeting and to lend assistance if necessary.  In my former role as Vice President for Human Resources, the supervisors did the actual termination meeting, but I was always that second person to attend and lend support when needed.

If security is a potential issue, notify your security ahead of time and have them close at hand so that they can respond quickly if needed. Remember, though, to protect the self-respect of the employee being terminated– security should only intervene if the situation gets out of hand.


Plan the Logistics

Contact your IT department immediately before the meeting and have them shut off access to the employees account.  

Here are some of the most important that should be considered:

Where: Where will the meeting be held?

A neutral location is best. Not in your office, not in theirs, not in public. Pick a neutral conference room, meeting room, or unoccupied lunchroom. Schedule the time and make sure there are no conflicts in the schedule.


When: What time of day and what day of the week?

Advice varies,but many professionals agree that the meeting should probably take place in the early to late afternoon (but not at the end of the day). Try to hold the termination meeting at a time and location that will not parade the employee through the job site at a peak period.

Note: Avoid firings around holidays or birthdays etc. Unless the separation is critical,waiting a day or so will reduce the trauma of the situation.


How Long: How long will the meeting last?

Between 5 and 15 minutes is best. The purpose of this meeting is to inform the employee of the decision,not to debate it or review it. Make sure you prepare in advance, including written materials, then the job can be done in a relatively short period. Shorter is always better – no small talk to start the meeting, etc. Always be truthful but you do not need to go into detail about specific incidents.

If the employee wants to debate the decision, ask them to use the grievance procedure or to write you a letter after they have thought it over for a day or so. No in-person debates, but a letter lets them have their "last word" if that will help them get through the process.


Who Attends?

Try to get another supervisor or HR person to be in attendance as a witness and to take notes. Other than that, make sure that there are no other people in the room at the time unless the employee themselves have asked someone to come with them.No groups - a limit of four is appropriate.


What Happens with the Employee: Where will they go after the interview?

Have a plan for where the employee will go or what they will do after the interview. If there is a security risk, prepare for the necessary precautions such as having the person escorted off the premises. If there is no security risk, consider whether the person will leave the job site immediately or whether they will gather their belongings etc. from their work location.

Follow your organization's procedures to the letter. Do not leave the employee hanging and have a detailed plan in place for their activity after the interview. Ask them if they would like some help from another employee of their choosing with final tasks, and if they do make it happen.

If appropriate,ask the employee what items they would like from their work computer such as personal photos and make arrangements to provide them on a flash drive for the employee.


The Unexpected

Take time before you meet with the employee to run through anything that might occur with the specific situation, employee’s personality, supervisor’s personality, and the like. Try to anticipate any crazy scenarios or behaviors that might ensue. If you go through the possible scenarios ahead of time and how to diffuse them,then you will be much more prepared when they happen in front of you.  


Do’s and Don’ts When Terminating

Terminations are rarely rewarding, but unfortunately the process is something that every organization must go through.  I wanted to conclude with some final tips on how to be successful with a termination.  

“Do’s” for terminating an employee:

  • Terminate in the first ten minutes of the conversation. Avoid a long build-up to soften the blow because this will often only confuse and cloud the message.
  • Be clear and answer questions. Make sure the employee understands that they're being terminated. Once you've explained the situation, let the employee ask questions.
  • Let your employee respond. Let the employee speak their mind. Acknowledge any valid points and tell the employee that you appreciate their input and     candidness.
  • End on a positive note. Thank the employee for their contributions and wish them luck in the future. When the meeting is over, stand up and shake their hand.
  • Put yourself in the employee's shoes, then do what you feel is right.
  • Specify clearly why the employee is being terminated and the effective date and time of the termination.
  • Inform the employee of any rights or entitlements that they may have coming.
  • Ensure the return of any property that is the employers.
  • Cover all areas of security, including computer passwords, phone codes, access to company property or data, and physical security of the job site and other employees.
  • Ask the employee if he or she understands the reasons for the termination.
  • Focus your discussion on performance related issues.
  • Arrange for the employee to remove personal effects in private.
  • Document the termination meeting.

“Don’ts” for terminating an employee:

  • Don't give employees false hope and say you will help them find a job.
  • Don't pass the buck and say this firing was not your idea.
  • Don't give platitudes and say, "You'll feel better when you sleep on it." or “You will thank me eventually.”
  • Don't say, "I feel really bad about this." Saying these things only makes the situation worse.
  • Don't get defensive.
  • Don't interrupt, contradict or try to defend yourself or the company. Arguing will only create resentment and frustration on the part of the employee.
  • Don't assess blame or make apologies. There's no reason to blame the employee or the company for the termination. Just explain that the company's needs     don't match the employee's skills.
  • Don't debate with the employee. Give honest answers, but don't debate.
  • Don't take responsibility for the failure. You may want to simply express regret that the opportunity did not work out.
  • Don't use words like "incompetent" or "dishonest". Focus on performance.
  • Don't offer advice. Listen respectfully, but don't offer advice or recriminations.
  • Don't discuss the termination with anyone other than the employee and those directly involved.

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