Managers stick with poor performers rather than hire new faces

Nov 20 2008 by Nic Paton Print This Article

We all know poor performers are a headache to manage. Yet most managers say they would prefer to manage someone they know, even if they are not pulling their weight, rather than starting afresh and hiring a new face.

A survey of nearly 200 U.S hiring managers by management consultancy Caliper has found that most felt more daunted by the prospect of hiring a new person than they did about managing "the devil you know".

Nearly seven out of 10 said they would persevere with an existing worker rather than taking a chance on someone new and unknown.

Fewer than a third found it harder to manage their existing workforce than selecting new employees.

"In difficult economic environments, people are companies' most powerful competitive advantage," said Caliper founder and chief executive Herb Greenberg.

"Every new hire provides a precious opportunity that employers don't want to squander. This adds to the pressure to 'work smarter' in the hiring process, and to avoid the costs of a poor decision," he added.

This reluctance to shake up existing teams by bringing in new blood can in part be seen as simply a fear of getting it wrong.

Once hired, bad decisions cannot easily be undone, making it easier simply to do nothing, as a survey by recruitment firm The Recruiting Roundtable suggested last month.

This found that bad hiring was costing U.S firms millions of dollars in lower performance, less engaged workers and higher staff turnover, with many managers quickly losing enthusiasm for, and trust in, the abilities of their new hires.

Yet, particularly in a downturn, motivating and continuing to challenge your staff, whether existing employees or new hires, is absolutely imperative.

A survey in September by recruitment firm Personnel Decisions International found U.S managers were now spending more time working on retaining key staff, including paying them bonuses and sending them on training courses.

Among those polled in the Caliper survey, the consensus was that, even if a person appears to be a perfect fit on paper, you are always taking a chance with a new hire.

"There are concerns as to [whether] he will fit in... There could be a two-year investment perhaps before you have him up to speed," said one manager in the survey.

And asked to reveal some of the biggest hiring mistakes they had come across, the hiring managers were not exactly shy in their responses.

"A fellow who, after one week on the job, asked... to go to Florida. We said no, he called in sick for a week and then came back with a tan!" explained one.

"We hired someone and the second day on the job, we found this woman taking a nap in the office of the CEO," added another.

"One gentleman came in late, left early, then told me, 'I'm going to be sick tomorrow, so I won't be in'," sighed another.

And then there was the individual who ran up $5,000 on his corporate credit card, money that the company had subsequently been unable to recover.

"With the help of a personality assessment, companies know better how to navigate the potential mine fields of hiring," pointed out Greenberg.

"This gives companies the upper hand in choosing the right people for the organisation and leaves the turkeys on the dinner table," he added.