How ‘bad hires’ can be transformed into ‘star performers’

Bad hires need not remain so. With a little effort and understanding, they can go on to become assets for their employers

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Matrimony.com’s chief human resource officer, Rajesh Balaji recalls a case, where a new joinee as HRBP appeared to be arrogant, unresponsive, pushing the manager, and not listening or participating during open meetings, during the initial days. It was believed that the person concerned was a bad hire, and was almost written off by the management.

However, Balaji decided not to give up on the new joinee so early. In a one-on-one meeting, the new HRBP changed all previous perceptions. Balaji was astonished by the person’s knowledge and intelligence. Within a few days, the executive had gathered critical information and insights on how  attrition was high among the sales team because new joinees in the sales team were not able to achieve targets in the first three months. The HRBP also suggested ways to change the matrices and processes. These insights brought in a lot of positive changes in the process,  and while productivity increased and attrition declined.

The organisation took time, but finally realised that the person who was once considered  to be  a bad hire was actually a storehouse of knowledge. The problem was that the person concerned just couldn’t express himself/herself during meetings.

“New hires can’t start performing from day one. They have to understand the system and processes first. Eventually, they will deliver. It will take three-six months for them to be productive. Within that time, they can be analysed.”

Rohit Suri, chief HR & talent officer, South Asia and Corporate Communications, GroupM

Bad hires are part of any hiring process. Not all judgements and choices can be correct. However, what’s important is how to convert bad hires into star performers, as it happened in the above mentioned case. Balaji suggests that bad hires need to be provided emotional support in terms of team challenges, work ecosystem and management.

“Work closely with new hires, have matrices in place, agree with those individuals on the matrices they will be tracked on, whether monthly or fortnightly, and provide all the support they need. Put in place systems to track purpose and productivity. Agree with the managers on a baseline, and then set the target,” he says.

The reasons for a bad hire or someone being labelled as a bad hire could be many. In fact, one of the common reasons attributed to a bad hire is when there is a mismatch in expectation between the new employee and the organisation.

“At Raheja QBE, there is a practice where for all senior-level hires, there are regular check-ins with the new leader, their manager and teams as they are in critical roles and impact the organisation at large.”

Saba Adil, chief people officer, Raheja QBE General Insurance Company

Rajeev Singh, chief human resources officer, Yokohama Off-Highway Tires, is a big believer in giving people a second chance.

In fact, he feels every organisation should believe in supporting all its employees irrespective of whether someone is old in the system or a new joinee, or someone is a good or a bad hire.

“Organisations have to remember that if an employee is successful, they add value to the company.”

At Raheja QBE, there is a practice where, for all senior-level hires, there are regular check-ins with the new leader, their manager and teams as they are in critical roles and impact the organisation at large.

Saba Adil, chief people officer, Raheja QBE General Insurance Company, says, “It’s critical to address any issues early!”

“Work closely with new hires, have matrices in place, agree with those individuals on the matrices they will be tracked on, whether monthly or fortnightly, and provide all the support they need. Put in place systems to track purpose and productivity. Agree with the managers on a baseline, and then set the target.”

Rajesh Balaji, CHRO, Matrimony.com

Adil shares a case, “During one of those check-ins, it came to our notice that there were communication gaps between the manager and the team as the manager wasn’t as gregarious as the previous leader. Of course the team found the manager competent in work advice and approachable. We soon got a dialogue running between the manager and the team to set expectations and to establish that every leader will have his/ her own unique style. With constant communication of the two, we were able to address the issue very early. The team went on to develop great camaraderie!”

Rohit Suri, chief HR & talent officer, South Asia and Corporate Communications, GroupM India, firmly believes that the hired candidates are never good or bad. The objective is to get the best fit for the job. The inability to perform could be attributed to other peripheral reasons, which need to be addressed. The reasons could be many —the environment, the manager the person is reporting to, or a conflict with other people and so on.

“If one employs the same yardstick for internal recruitment — underperformance is a matter of concern there too —whom does one blame.”

Rajeev Singh of Yokohama Off-Highway Tires

“New hires can’t start performing from day one. They have to understand the system and processes first. Eventually, they will deliver. It will take three-six months for them to be productive. Within that time, they can be analysed.”

Suri shares a common practise in case of bad hires. It’s about moving people across various departments within an organisation.

However, problems of misfit or bad hire are not just restricted to external hires. The same can happen even during internal movements.

“If one employs the same yardstick for internal recruitment — underperformance is a matter of concern there too —whom does one blame,” opines Singh of Yokohama Off-Highway Tires.

“This is why even in internal movements, an assessment process and evaluation of values is a must to get a right fit,” he adds.

At Yokohama, there is a special programme for summer interns, where they are taught how to be better professionals and what it takes to be successful. This is to ensure to reduce the chances of bad hire when they are finally recruited into the team.

Clearly, bad hires are a possibility but they are certainly not beyond repair. Yes, they may increase a manager’s job as they may need more time to cope than usual, but they deserve all the support. Showing them the door at the first sign of difficulty may be disadvantageous, not just to the employees but to the company as well.

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