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Executive Corner – Terminated an Employee and Hired Their Replacement Using the Same Process?

Michael Clegg | 10/26/2022

Have you ever terminated an employee, regardless of reason, and began interviewing their replacement using the same interview questions and process? Did you have a formal debrief with the people involved in the original hiring process? Most organizations and leaders replace people using the exact same process they used to hire the terminated employee.

I asked this question to a leader, and I received a “deer in the headlights” look. Then I heard, “No, they just weren’t the right fit.” Let me be clear. We have all done everything right in the hiring process only to find someone who wasn’t the best fit for our organization. Part of that is working with people.   

The debrief I’m referring to is not an exit interview with the departing employee. Exit interviews are essential. The debrief is sitting with the team involved in the hiring process. 

I asked the question to see if this leader took any responsibility for the termination or if it was his belief that it was the terminated employee’s fault. I could tell that I was causing some consternation in his thought process. He had not considered debriefing with the team before beginning the process of finding a replacement.

Most leaders don’t think they are at fault when they lose an employee, especially if they terminate that employee. We must take 100% responsibility for any employee that leaves an organization through resignation or termination. We put together a job description with duties, tasks, and hopefully outcomes. We put together (most leaders don’t prepare for interviews) interview questions to identify if this role would be a match. If you say, “well, actually, HR did all of that for me,” it does not let you off the hook. Replacing an employee is very costly. Society of Human Resources did a study and shows that it costs 6 to 9 months of the terminated employee’s salary to search, hire, and train the replacement. It is critical that we get it right the next time.

This is all a part of the continuous improvement process to lead your organization. Review the process, which includes the Job Description, which I like to call “People Description,” and the interview questions to ensure it produces the match you want to see.

As a refresher, when reviewing your job description, ensure that it is primarily driven by outcomes, not just tasks. The tasks are important but don’t guarantee the desired result like listing outcomes. 

ExampleTASK based

·      Responsible for completing a weekly status report

Does this tell the employee how or what you want in the report? It doesn’t, and that is part of the challenge.  Leaders think their employees have 100% clarity on what every role entails and even ask, “do you have any additional questions about this role?” in the interview. The average candidate has seen hundreds of job descriptions and accepts them as accurate. 

ExampleOUTCOME based

·      Responsible for completing your weekly status report with your weekly goals and your progress toward those goals and a list of any challenges that you incurred during the week

Do you see the difference between task-based vs. outcome-based? Task-based statements tell an employee how you want something done, not necessarily why it’s being done. In the new world of work, the biggest complaint I see is a lack of organizational flexibility. 

If you want the right fit for your next open role, evaluate every step in your hiring process and look for areas where you can make your next hire successful.

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