It’s every hiring manager’s nightmare. After weeks of an extensive hiring process, background checks, reference verifications, onboarding paperwork and first day setup, it appears that you’ve hired an absolute rockstar. Life is good in your department and you think your job is done. But slowly this new employee’s façade starts to crumble: a missed deadline here, a problematic project there. Their coworkers aren’t sure they fit with the company culture or values. It becomes clear that this employee does not understand what they were hired to do and may not be qualified to do it.

Now you’re faced with a dilemma: how do you fix this less-than stellar hire in a way that doesn’t cost your company a ridiculous amount of money? Unfortunately, many hiring managers have found themselves in this very situation, especially when they need to hire a certain number of employees in time for a busy season. It’s easy to get caught up in what makes a candidate shiny and the pressure of needing to make a hire can prevent you from noticing red flags until it’s too late, and you don’t have time or money to hire and train another person.

Poor culture fit can drain the energy out of your team and not having developed the required skills can cause delays and even safety concerns. The good news is that there are many ways to remedy the situation that don’t involve firing the employee and starting from scratch. By figuring out where you went wrong in the first place and taking steps to develop less-than-stellar employees, you have the opportunity to turn this hiring flop into the all-star your company needs.


Hindsight is 20/20

Take advantage of the fact that it’s way easier to understand your mistakes when looking back. There could be several reasons why your new hire isn’t the employee of your dreams, and the good news is many of them are easy to fix moving forward so you can prevent future panic hires. It’s important to sit down with the employee after noticing the problem and discuss some of the problems you’re seeing. Their insight might shock you. Make sure you ask the following questions:

  • What were you looking for? Why did you apply? It’s amazing what hidden issues these simple questions will uncover. The employee could be just as frustrated with the situation as you are because they thought they were applying for a completely different job than the job that they ended up with. This could lead back to the job description. Take a look at what you posted when the position opened and compare the listed description to what the employee actually does on a daily basis. If they don’t match, it’s time to re-evaluate both the job description and the job itself.
  • Are you willing to begin a learning program to better fit the role? If the employee is frustrated because they don’t understand the job, offer development opportunities to help them feel more confident in their work. If they aren’t licensed to operate certain machinery or software the company should help them get those licenses so they can work more productively.

In this conversation, also communicate what the company needs from this position and see if there are ways that the employee’s wants and needs match up with yours. Finding that common ground can be a great starting point to engaging and helping the employee become closer to who the company needs them to be.

Keep on Learning

If the employee is willing to do extra training and secure licenses needed for their job, this is the green light to create a learning plan with the employee’s development needs in mind. The trick here is to collaborate with the employee to decide on the finer details of the learning plan. This is especially important if there was a disconnect between what the company needs and what the employee thought the company needed. By meeting in the middle, you’re way less likely to put the employee on the defensive and more likely to increase engagement because you care about the employee as a professional, not just as a warm body.

Remember that learning doesn’t have to be a classroom with a teacher, a whiteboard and those dusty erasers. With a high-quality learning management system, anything can count as training. Did they read a book to help them understand industry issues? Count it as training time. Are they planning to attend an industry safety conference? Count it as training. Are they taking the time to complete additional modules that fit their interest? You guessed it: it’s training. By helping your employee learn the way they learn best, you’re strengthening the relationship between not only you and the employee but also the employee and the greater organization.

Setting goals with the employee is a great way to track and recognize employees for the progress they are making to become the team member you need. Make sure these goals are attainable and measurable and are in a time frame that seems fair to the employee. Most importantly, don’t forget to recognize milestones met, whether that’s earning a license or completing a certification. If employees know you notice their hard work, they will be more likely to work hard in the future, adding value to your company.

Get Cultured

If you’ve identified culture fit as the main source of angst about the new hire, it’s time to take a deep dive into what makes your company culture tick. If this happened with one employee, it could be an issue on their end, but it’s also possible that your company could be a huge part of the problem. Is your company culture inclusive? Do employees feel valued by their managers and one another? Do employees feel as though their company cares about them as whole people? If the answer is, “no” to any of these questions, you need to re-evaluate—and fast.

Inclusion isn’t just something that needs to be discussed in terms of workplace diversity. It’s also a prevalent issue when it comes to newcomers. Often new employees don’t feel as though they’re welcome at events alongside some of the more seasoned team members or are even overlooked when invitations are being sent out. If your workplace is clique-y, also be sure to create events where the whole company is invited in order to help foster relationships to bust apart exclusive coworker groups and give the new hire a chance to get a foot in the door.

It might be hard to see, but it’s possible you and other managers may be part of the company culture problem. If you find yourself or other managers hovering, micromanaging or becoming easily irritated over small setbacks, you need to make a change immediately. People join companies and leave managers. Nothing makes people leave a job faster. If an employee starts rapidly disengaging, their immediate manager may be part of the problem. Invest in quality manager training and commit to developing managers who struggle to effectively work with their employees. It’ll be amazing how many employees stick around once the problem is solved.

After having a conversation with your employee, you realize that their poor performance is a multi-faceted issue. They don’t feel like they’re clicking with the culture, they weren’t aware of some of the job requirements and they weren’t sure how to proceed. Working with the employee, you were able to create a learning plan and introduce them to a group of coworkers who showed them the ropes. Their performance did a complete 180 and continues to improve. Thankfully, you were able to turn this struggling new hire into a superstar employee, and boost your company’s bottom line.