bookI think that its safe to say that the most often neglected rule of management is “hire slow and fire fast”, albeit grammatically incorrect, the point is clear and it’s a lesson difficult to refute. 

But we break this rule all the time.  Frankly, we are much more likely to hire quickly and fire slowly.  In the nineties, if a human could fog a mirror he/she was qualified to work in a drycleaning plant.  With jobs as plentiful as they were back then, it’s a miracle that we got anybody to work for us.

It’s much easier these days to get someone to apply for a position, and there are many of us that perform our due diligence during the application and hiring processes. I have seen personality tests, trial periods and conditional hirings.  Certain things like “Let’s see you press shirts for an hour.  If your quality is good, you will get the job.”

There have been instances where it’s difficult to make a decision so we do multiple interviews with several people; the supervisor, the General Manager, then the owner.  There is nothing wrong with being cautious, especially when the pool of applicants is ample.  But what if things go awry?  Giving an individual a job is a contract of sorts.  You agree to pay someone an agreed upon amount.  In exchange, the employee agrees to perform certain tasks.  It isn’t really that different than any other business deal, but we seem to screw it up sometimes.  If the bank loans you money, you accept the agreement to pay an amount of money to the bank in exchange for the bank doing its part; giving you the money up front.  The deal isn’t without its complications.  You will need to give the bank much more money than they originally gave you.  You’re ok with that because your need for the money up front is greater than your need for the larger amount of money spread out over time.

When you buy anything, hangers for example, your supplier wants your money more than the hangers.  He already has the hangers.  He doesn’t want them, or at least, not as much as he wants your cash.  On the other hand, you want the hangers more than you want the agreed upon amount of money.  You need them because the hangers are an integral part of your plan to convert freshly drycleaned garments into revenue.  It’s a great deal because everybody wins.  It’s the same when an employment agreement is made; in essence, it’s a deal whereby you desire the performance more than the cash.  You agree to give someone $x in exchange for the performance of a specific task.  Everybody wins.   You want the performance more than the cash because you know that, with the said performance you can turn that into more cash.  I’m not telling you anything that you don’t already know, it’s just that we rarely give it this much thought.

But virtually every employer, including yours truly, has failed to terminate the employment of someone that is not living up to his or her end of the bargain.  I think that I have finally figured out why.  Once you are certain that you have given the employee all of the tools and the training to do the job that they need, flipping the switch becomes very easy.  But much too often, we don’t have the confidence in our training.  If you are 100% certain that someone has been properly trained, its actually quite easy to “fire fast” because you know that this trainee is simply not following directions, up for the task or in possession of the necessary skill set.

But in the real world drycleaning & laundry facility, the training of a typical shirt presser (and many other positions) involves a 10-15 minute introduction, followed by 3 minutes of the trainer watching the trainee, and then the trainee being left on their own, with little or no follow-up.  No one should ever terminate this trainee for under-performing.  You have failed to do your part, which is to supply the trainee with the proper tools (the training) to do the job.

As an industry, how can we be so concerned about making sure that we get the correct number of poly bags on a roll, recycle crappy hangers, cutting flag tags and 1-items labels in half and reusing cellophane tape, while we haphazardly waste labor dollars?  It is completely senseless.

When you are training a shirt presser or any other person, it requires hours of attention, not 15 minutes.  But these “hours” that you are probably certain you cannot spare.  But failing to make time to properly train your hires is very costly indeed.  The rationale is that the employee will “get better with time” or that they “will get faster with practice.”  Practice doesn’t make perfect.  Sorry, Mom.  Practice makes consistent.  And if that “consistent” isn’t exactly what you’re hoping for, be prepared to be disappointed.  Perhaps for a long time.  So you may reason that you don’t have time to invest in a thorough training of a new presser, but you had best be prepared to tolerate substandard performance or to make time to train someone else in the near future.

It reminds be of what my management mentor taught me 35-40 years ago.  “You never have time to do it right, but you always have time to do it over.”

“If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got!”