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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 July 2018

Workplace doctor: What to do when a new hire doesn't seem to work out

Having a good on-boarding process is essential to ensure that new recruits have adequate support and structures to help them settle into their new role

A sign on a Taco Bell restaurant advertises 'Now Hiring Managers' in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. But what to do when a new recruit proves less than ideal? Brian Snyder/Reuters
A sign on a Taco Bell restaurant advertises 'Now Hiring Managers' in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. But what to do when a new recruit proves less than ideal? Brian Snyder/Reuters

I lead a hospitality firm in RAK and recently I hired what I thought was a perfect fit for the role of client liaison chief. Unfortunately this new employee's customer service skills are far from polished. They keep saying things are “awesome” and “totally cool” and uses “like” every other word, even after repeated coaching, making a bad impression on customers. What should I do?

AP, RAK

Recruiting the right people for the right role is one of the many challenges a manager faces, and it must be very frustrating and disappointing when after all that effort, your new employee doesn’t seem to be the great new recruit you thought they would be.

To prevent this bad hire from having a negative impact on you and your team, the situation needs to be dealt with fairly quickly.

Starting a new job requires a lot of information to be assimilated in a short period of time, so having a good on-boarding process is essential to ensure that new recruits have adequate support and structures to help them settle into their new role. According to the Allied Workforce Mobility Survey, 30 per cent of companies reported that it takes a year or more for new hires to reach full productivity. It is equally important that the new employee is clear about the goals and expectations within their role. This provides clarity for both the employee and the manager, and eases the way in addressing any unmet expectations.

From your description, it seems that there is some immaturity in how he/she engages with clients. This is not necessarily an indication of age, but rather that of professional maturity. Professional maturity refers to the ability to respect diverse cultural backgrounds and experiences at work and that judgement is driven by facts and mutual consent rather than emotions and instincts. It also stretches to our character at work, how we manage work relationships, value workplace culture and manage ourselves in terms of communication and appropriate formality of language. Most of these social work skills can be improved and developed through support structures such as mentoring and coaching but it will require time – a luxury which you may not always have.

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Read more:

Workplace Doctor: What you can do to support a stressed colleague

Workplace doctor: sincere praise for a job well done is vital

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So what should you do? As a start, confirm that your observations and perceptions are not isolated by checking how other trusted colleagues and team members experience this employee. If you asked others how they thought the new recruit was doing, will their feedback be in line with your thoughts?

Consider whether the issues you are experiencing with this employee could be improved with training, added support or more structured feedback. What were the qualities, attributes and skills you appreciated about this person from their resume and during their interview? You were suitably impressed to consider them a perfect fit, so how can you build on these strengths? In order to help this employee succeed in their role, what tools, resources or reference materials are you able to provide to help demonstrate the expectations you have of them? For instance, you can let the person shadow you on a few client calls so they can observe the level of professionalism, formality and style of interaction the role requires. Follow up with a few role plays in the office across various client scenarios and then begin co-travelling with the person, so that you can observe these skills being applied - followed by a debrief, specific feedback and coaching after each call.

As a last resort, you could terminate their contract as it is likely that he/she is still under probation. It may be difficult to let this person go, not only because you are likely to have an emotional investment in their success, but it may also require courage from your side to acknowledge that your new hire is not working out. Of course, this means that you are back to the recruiting process, which can be both lengthy and costly.

Doctor’s prescription:

Be clear and specific about the behaviours you would like to see an improvement in. Provide appropriate support and constructive feedback in service of developing this person to meet the required expectations. This experience does suggest an opportunity to review your recruitment and interviewing processes and to further develop these so that you can attract the right fit of people to your organisation.