Article: Oops! You've bought a lemon

Talent Acquisition

Oops! You've bought a lemon

Hiring mistakes happen – we're human after all! The important thing is to read the signs and act – quickly
Oops! You've bought a lemon

Many newbies believe that they have to thrust their agenda forward. They have to get things done even if it means going it alone


You’ve just welcomed a new member to your team after a detailed, exhaustive hiring exercise. After several rounds of interviews, conducted by various groups of people, everyone finally agreed that she’s the one! Articulate, intelligent, with an excellent CV, terrific references and witty to boot! You wipe the metaphorical sweat off your brow and smile…

Beyond competencies and experience, every new employee is the harbinger of hope and positive change. The good news is that most of the time, that’s how it pans out.

However, when talent is ‘bought’ from the outside – whether from another company or another market the company operates in – it’s like a gamble. With due respect to modern-day acquisition processes – psychometrics, interviews, verifications et al – that nagging fear invariably lurks.

So until such time as the newbie starts delivering, many necks are on the line: The hiring manager’s, her boss’s, the HR contact, besides the sundry consultants who facilitated the move. A veritable army of trained professionals – Yet they are human and prone to error. Mercifully, errors can be fixed. The quantum of damage, however, depends on how soon the error gets recognized and fixed.

Many organizations benevolently allow new employees time to ‘settle in’. Others implement elaborate onboarding programs to help the person integrate with the processes and culture. This ‘honeymoon period’ can range from one to six months!

If it’s on the wall, the important thing is to ‘see’:

Non-collaborative approach: This is the most obvious one! Many newbies believe that they have to thrust their agenda forward – and upon everyone and they have to get things done even if it means going it alone. The fact is today’s business can only work if there’s alignment at the top and teamwork all around.

Over-commitment and under-achievement: Both mortal sins, if they recur. A missed deadline or target number is essentially an integrity issue. Worse, it could indicate that the person over-stated – actually lied about – her capabilities during the interviews. Integrity!

Customer feedback: Customers are not concerned with your internal strife. They’ve paid, and expect seamless service. They’re sensitive, vote with their feet – and cost a bomb to re-acquire. Customers complaining about your new hire means trouble. Competence!

There’s good news and bad news. The good news: A good healthy conversation can turn things around. Your newbie may have been looking for just that – some constructive feedback. She gets the drift and life gets better! The bad news: the person ‘hears’ you. Oops! You’ve bought a lemon!

Recognize the signs, the precursors: These usually show up within the first two months – by which time the person’s ‘best behaviour’ would have worn off.

Admit that there’s been a misjudgement: It involves suppressing an ego – yours! One way to look at it would be to convince people – starting with yourself – that the interview process did indeed let in a good person. The important thing is to humbly do the mea culpa today rather than endure the loss of money – and face – later.

Have that conversation: Inform the person that things are not working out. Plan an exit strategy and offer to help the person find another job. Having such ‘conversations’ is tough and downright depressing. Medicine is usually bitter. Pray that the stress is on both sides and the person too comes to understand that it was a bad move. It’s known to happen…

Getting the ‘right’ fit is exhilarating – given the sheer number of variables involved even in today’s evolved talent acquisition processes. There are enough cracks for things to fall through – despite everything. Lemons do happen, that’s reality! So it is important to find them and ease them out early on. Well before their sourness percolates into your organization.

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Topics: Talent Acquisition, Strategic HR, #HRInsights

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