4 Ways to Prevent Disaster When Firing an Employee

Employee terminations are one of the ugliest parts of business ownership. Whether it’s from a financially-driven layoff, a reorganization, or a performance issue, it’s never a good day at the office when there’s an involuntary separation. Terminations are expensive, costing the company about 50% – 60% of the terminated employee’s salary to refill the position.

Employers always take a short-term bottom line hit when there is a termination, especially if the employee files for unemployment or files a wrongful termination suit.

For highly visible situations, the fallout can be even worse. Fired employees can easily become damaging whistleblowers, as ex-Volkswagen employee Daniel Donovan demonstrates.

When a company terminates a volatile employee, they are potentially unleashing a poisonous can of worms. I’m not suggesting that companies retain toxic employeesout of fear for retaliation. However, it’s essential that business owners anticipate the damage an irate ex-employee can cause, and move swiftly to contain it.

Before The Termination

Terminations are rarely knee-jerk reactions for the employer, and if they are performance-based, they are rarely surprises to the employee. Prior to terminating an employee for performance, follow this HR process to legally protect the company:

  1. Document as much as you can. I’m a big fan of conversation recaps and email trails. Expect that an employee will have a much different perspective on how you arrived at your decision to terminate.
  2. Know the job description well. The job description is an essential tool in the termination process. You can not fire for performance if you can’t reach back to mutually agreed upon expectations.
  3. Provide coaching. This demonstrates your commitment to the employee’s success, and shows you are willing to do whatever is possible to salvage the situation.
  4. Provide written counseling of what is going to happen if performance is not improved. This is a form letter that the employee must sign. It spells out the problem, what the company has done to address the problem, and what the next steps will be if performance doesn’t improve.

In addition to protecting the company legally, the company must protect itself from a data breach. Immediately prior to the termination, put processes in place to shut off access to the network and to email. The IT department and HR department must work closely together to ensure all bases are covered.

During the Termination

  1. One of the most valuable pieces of advice I learned while runningInformation Experts for 15 years was from our outsourced HR Director Jennifer Brown, CEO of PeopleTactics: Always have a witness during a termination. The third party will eliminate a he-said-she-said scenario, which can sometimes lead to a lawsuit.
  2. Always keep the termination as professional as possible. “We’ve eliminated the position” is the safest termination clause. Keep the conversation focused on the steps ahead. Terminations are emotionally charged conversations, and it’s best to resist being drawn into a defensive dialog. The less an employer says, the better.
  3. Present the employee with a termination letteroutlining the reasons for termination, what they can expect moving forward, and any legal restrictions on them, including slanderous or damaging behavior.

After the Termination

  1. Be proactive with communications to all stakeholders (employees, customers, partners, etc.) as soon as possible, with simple messaging you’ve created prior to the termination.
  2. Activate a plan to have other employees be customer points of contact if the employee was customer-facing. This should happen immediately. For very large customers with a high strategic importance, the CEO should reach out personally.
  3. Don’t discuss the details of the termination with anyone. Other employees will watch to see how you handle it, and some will likely inform the terminated employee of what is happening in the office. Former employees often stay friends with current employees long after their termination, especially in the social media era. Your conduct as a leader will definitely be discussed.
  4. Don’t engage in an online war with an ex-employee. You will lose. They will likely post disparaging comments about the company, and maybe about you. Handle it privately, and remind them of their legal obligations to protect company information.

The tighter you can contain a toxic employee with preemptive processes and legal documentation, the more quickly the drama surrounding the termination will dissipate. It gets easier with every termination when we remember that our decisions ultimately serve the greater good of the organization.

Are You Sure You Know Who You Are Hiring?

By Jennifer Brown, Founder and CEO of PeopleTactics

You spent about 45 minutes interviewing the job candidate, loved him/her and are ready to make an employment offer – right? I hope your answer was a resounding NO!! One interview is never enough to make a decision on whether to hire someone or not. Every employee you hire has the potential to make or break your company. No other business decision is more important to the success of your company than whom you hire!

Therefore, a thorough candidate assessment process is a must. Set-up a multiple hurdle approach in which candidates must “pass” each step to proceed to the next step. A sample approach is:

  1. Review resume to ensure candidate meets job-posting qualifications.
  2. Conduct a phone screen to qualify candidate for the position.
  3. Hiring Manager conducts a face-to-face with candidate and candidate completes the application.
  4. Candidate has a second face-to-face interview or lunch meeting with hiring manager and another employee and/or colleague.

Note: Candidates tend to let their guard down in more informal situations such as a lunch, so this gives you additional insight into their ability to do the job effectively.

  1. Conduct thorough reference checks (you could also move this step up to before the second interview).
  2. Conduct background checks (e.g., criminal, education, driving record) if applicable.

Note: Background checks often need to be completed once a conditional employment offer is made to the candidate.

Take your time with the candidate assessment process – effective hiring will not only help your company thrive, but it will prevent you from having to spend your time, money and energy on addressing employee issues.

Want to learn more about assessing potential candidates? Email us  or give us a call at 571-587-5615. We work with our clients every day to ensure they are hiring the best candidates for the job.

PeopleTactics works with small business owners to prevent and solve Human Resources problems that can drain them of their time, money and energy.

To learn more, please visit the PeopleTactics website.

Are You Thanking Your Employees Enough?

By Jennifer Brown, Founder and CEO of PeopleTactics

Of all the things you can do for your employees, a simple “Thank You” is the most inexpensive and often the most impactful gesture a business owner can make to her employees. A study conducted by Sirota Consulting (based on interviews with 2.5 million employees in 237 private, public, and not-for-profit organizations in 89 countries around the world) revealed that only 51% of workers were satisfied with the recognition they received after a job well done.

By making your employees feel appreciated, you will see a host of benefits. Employees who feel appreciated enjoy their work more and become more productive. They feel less stress and are generally more content on the job. They are more loyal and want to stay with your company, as opposed to leaving to look for a place where they feel more appreciated.

There are many ways to go about showing your appreciation, and many are inexpensive or even cost-free! All it takes is a little bit of effort on your part, which will pay huge dividends. Here are a few ways an employer can show her employees that they are valued members of the company team:

  • Go see an employee in their office and verbally thank them.
  • Email or call an employee and express your appreciation.
  • Write a handwritten Thank You Note
– Make your appreciation a day-to-day occurrence: Bringing in a fancy cake once a year on “Employee Appreciation Day” is nice, but day-to-day demonstrations of your appreciation go much further. Make a small gesture on a regular basis, and you will see significant results.
  • Give your employee a low-cost gift such as a plant, flowers, or tickets to an event.
  • Take your employee to lunch.

Remember to be specific when you thank an employee for something. Be clear about the particular behavior that was so appreciated so that they know what to repeat in the future.

For additional tips on how you can show appreciation to your employees Email us  or give us a call at 571-587-5615. Remember, employees who feel appreciated are more loyal, productive, and satisfied!

PeopleTactics works with small business owners to prevent and solve Human Resources problems that can drain them of their time, money and energy.

To learn more, please visit the PeopleTactics website.

How to Save Time When Hiring an Employee By Using Phone Screening

By Jennifer Brown, Founder and CEO of PeopleTactics

You have a position to fill and have gone through the stack of resumes and now have some people you want to interview. But wait, before you invite someone in for a face-to-face interview which usually takes about an hour of your time, do a phone screen first. Phone screenings are typically 20 to 30 minutes long and will help you quickly eliminate people who aren’t appropriate for the position.

Like most things in HR, you want a consistent approach. When it comes to phone screenings, this means following the same set of questions for every person you speak with about the position.

Similar to reference checks, phone screening will help you determine if the person not only has the skills and experience for the position, but if he/she will be a strong fit with your company’s culture and values. Questions to ask include:

  • What are your career goals?
  • What are you really good at professionally?
  • What are you not good at or not interested in doing professionally?
  • Who were your last five bosses, and how will they each rate your performance on a 1-10 scale when we speak with them?
  • How did you find out about our position?
  • What attracted you to our company and position?
  • Tell me about your experience with “X”.
  • Note: If someone must have a particular skill-set (e.g., strong proficiency with Excel), ask them a question related to this requirement.
  • What salary range are you looking for?

Note: The first four questions are based on the “Screening Interview Guide” in “Who: The A Method for Hiring” by Geoff Smart and Randy Street, a must read for anyone who is going to be hiring employees.

Remember, your business is whom you hire! Effective phone screenings should yield a small slate of 2 to 5 well-qualified candidates to invite in for a longer, more in-depth face-to-face interview. Email us  or give us a call at 571-587-5615 if you would like help with finding the right candidate for your business.

PeopleTactics works with small business owners to prevent and solve Human Resources problems that can drain them of their time, money and energy.

To learn more, please visit the PeopleTactics website.

Finding the Right People to Meet Your Business Needs

By Jennifer Brown, Founder and CEO of PeopleTactics

For many business owners, when you need someone to edit your blogs, book your travel arrangements, or manage your bookkeeping, the traditional route is to hire a full time employee. However, for small businesses, this can often be very costly. Hiring a full time employee constitutes paying a full time salary plus benefits, and even if you have the resources to pay this individual, oftentimes you don’t have the work to support a full time person.

While there is never a shortage of tasks to accomplish, many of these needs fall outside of the business owner’s primary skill set. In reality, these tasks are distracting and sap energy that is needed elsewhere. Business owners should be focusing their talents on the things that are their strengths and the things that help to move the business forward.

In recent years, the term “assistant” has broadened. While most people once thought of an assistant as the person who handles administration, there are now many other tasks that assistants perform for their clients. Of course, you can still hire an assistant to perform more traditional administrative tasks such as scheduling appointments, making travel arrangements, and maintaining office supplies. But now, you can also hire someone to perform tasks such as blogging, following up with clients, creating and formatting documents, and bookkeeping. And, you could hire someone to handle and maintain your social media, including your LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other pages.

Instead of hiring full time employees, small business owners need to be creative in how they find the right people to meet their business needs. These non-traditional sources are the individuals who want more flexibility in their schedules and include part time employees, college students, interns, companies you can pay by the hour to do this work, as well as virtual assistants and stay at home parents.

By taking advantage of these skilled workers, business owners will discover some truly talented individuals and save money at the same time. These types of workers are highly specialized and tend to be very good at those things for which they are hired. And by hiring these individuals on a contractual basis, a full time salary and benefits are no longer necessary. Additionally, if the arrangement isn’t working out, it’s much easier to end it.

To be perfectly honest, there aren’t many cons to these non-traditional sources. While there is the concern of contractual workers not feeling loyal to your company, hiring someone based on referrals will help to ensure that the individual you hire is trustworthy and reliable. Talk to trusted colleagues and don’t forget to utilize your social media community, to find someone great.

Looking to tap a non-traditional source to find an employee? We can help. Email us or give us a call at 571-587-5615.

PeopleTactics works with small business owners to prevent and solve Human Resources problems that can drain them of their time, money and energy.

To learn more, please visit our website.