Failed employees are your fault. 

If you’re a leader and someone fails in your organisation – it’s entirely your fault.

Whilst an unpopular opinion (#sorrynotsorry) there’s no doubt in my mind that when a member of your team fails – whether a new starter or a long-standing employee, the fault lands squarely on your shoulders. Here’s why…

Failed newbies

Tired of taking what seems like an eternity to find a competent and likeable employee – only to bring them in and see them struggle and ultimately fail? 

Speaking compassionately, I know right now it’s particularly difficult to find and hire people with a great attitude and who have the skills you need to propel your business in the right direction. I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve also talked at length about the great resignation, and the responsibility managers have for the success and development of their people and teams. What I haven’t talked about is how a difficult recruitment landscape means you’re likely to compromise, forsaking usual rigorous and set criteria, simply to get another bum on that seat.

There’s a real temptation to consider easing back on your hiring process; whether that’s your competency requirements or indeed the attitude of potential employees. Several of my clients have come to me in the past few months, complaining that a difficult recruitment process as left them in a quandary. Feeling under pressure to compromise on skills, or compromise on attitude and values to get that desperately needed hire. Several of them have also come to me after a newbie is struggling – they’ve barely warmed up that seat and leaders are up the ladder contemplating how they’re going to ask them to leave. Then it’s back to square one.

Here’s my advice.

  1. If at all possible, never compromise on competency or attitude

Easy for me to say. And yes, it is easy to say. But it doesn’t make it any less true. Yes, you might have you team leaders in your ear: ‘the person we’re after doesn’t exist’, ‘we need to compromise on XYZ key competencies’, ‘We’ve been looking for XYZ number of months now’, ‘they’re not ideal, but they’re the best we’re going to find’. 

The problem with compromising is that you are seriously increasing the likelihood that your new employee will fail. Those competencies and attitudes you set out were likely well thought out, they were designed to fill the gap you need to fill and to ensure team fit. In short, they are vital to helping your new hire succeed. If you compromise, know that you might be right back in this spot only a few months from now. 

  • Every recruitment problem that can’t be solved if you throw money at it.

Cringe – are we talking about money? OK, so it’s crass. But true nonetheless. There’s not a position you can’t fill if you throw more money at it.  How much do you want the right person? You might need to revisit your budget. The alternative is that you burn through that extra cost with none billable hours spent training a compromised version of your perfect hire.

  • Have you really ‘tried everything’? 

Are you paying your recruiters what they want? I know first hand that recruiters who have been bartered down will try their hardest to place employees with other businesses paying them higher commission. Have you thought about trying headhunters, or bringing in an external recruitment team to become part of your team? Could you alter your package? Do you need more than one person? Would you consider two part time employees who have the skills but can’t commit to 5 days a week? There’s a huge talent pool of 2/3 day a weekers who could share the load and perhaps even bring more ideas and inspiration. Get creative.  

  • If you do compromise…

Be very aware from the off that you are actively making this decision. Make sure the team know that there will be more effort involved from everyone. Get your calendar ready to spend some REAL, quality time making you new team member feel valued. Forget feeling cross if they don’t know something, knuckle down and get them on those training courses. If they fail, it’s on you. Every time. 

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can shoe-horn a different skill someone has into your own skills criteria. Convincing yourself is easy… the results almost always backfire. 

When long-time employees leave

I could spend as long here as on newbies, but instead I’ll list the main reasons people are going to leave. Sorry, you know what I’m going to say… all of them are on you: 

  1. They weren’t valued as an individual
  2. You didn’t take the time to find out their motivations
  3. You hadn’t provided a career development path
  4. You neglected their need to be seen 
  5. You failed to acknowledge their value and impact on the organisation
  6. You didn’t supported them when they were struggling
  7. You failed to be flexible even when their reasons were valid
  8. You failed to keep promises
  9. Did you helped them thrive? Feel challenged?

The post-match analysis

It’s easy to say ‘they weren’t right for us’, ‘they’d stopped bringing their A game’, ‘when they joined I really thought they had more to them than this’. All too often as leaders we fail to do a post-match analysis. Why did that person leave? What do we need to do better if we don’t want others to follow in their footsteps?’. 

It is the leaders responsibility to look hard at himself first and ask the following critical questions when something bad happens:

  • Have I caused this problem?
  • Have I done everything I can to make my employees and the company successful?
  • What could I do differently moving forward?
  • How can I lead and help solve this issue?

Check your ego and remember. If they fail… it’s on you. 



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