All too common story ... I was recently working with the leader of a nonprofit organization who is talking about his latest dilemma: a mid-level manager who is exiting the organization, and both this manager and he were upset. He was disappointed that the manager was leaving but didn’t think she had lived up to her potential. On the flip side, the manager felt resentful, believing she was hired for a very different job than the one she was required to perform.
When the leader asked me for my advice on what to do next, I suggested the departure is probably mutually beneficial. In truth, both leader and manager would not be able to reconcile. The challenge wasn’t a typical human resources issue about compensation, communications, or relationships.
From the start, the manager had a great resume and was an excellent catch for the organization but was always the wrong person for each particular task. On the other hand, the leader was not upfront about the job requirements. So in a sense, the manager did accept a different position than the one she was now trying to perform.
Human resources issues born out of hiring the wrong candidate are all too common in the nonprofit field. Research shows that replacing one single position cost an organization anywhere from 75% to 125% of the annual salary for the given job. No nonprofit I know has that time or money to waste.
Discover these 3 common signs of hiring mistakes and ways to overcome them.
1. The Different Job
Problem: Of the all the signs of hiring mistakes, the most common is when the employee reports that this is a “different job” than the one he or she was hired for.
One of the ways I’ve seen this play out is through a misunderstanding of the job’s key metrics. For example, you may have a Director of Development position in which your key metric is the total amount of funding secured, but instead, the employee is focusing on the proposals written to potential funders. These functions are related but very different, and missing the metric can lead to frustration for the leader and employee alike.
Honestly, I’ve been guilty of this misstep over the years myself. A supportive leader might default to giving the employee time to come around to a closer fit or consider work arounds (such as saying to yourself, “Well, she didn’t think she signed up for X, so maybe I’ll just do it myself.”).
In truth, this approach is a disservice to you and your direct report. You are also potentially setting yourself up for long term problems since you are accepting less for the position and creating a precedent for it.
Solution: Review the job description with your direct report and let them tell you how he or she sees their job based on the description.
When they are done, you need to point out where your perceptions of the position differ. In the long run, the employee will either come around, or frankly, realize the job is different than expected and leave. In the latter case, make sure the next hiring process specifically clarifies points that left candidates confused to ensure they “get it” before they sign up.
2. The Difficult to Fill Job
Problem: When you have a position that takes an unusually long time to fill it is a sign that you are not communicating the position effectively.
You can see this play out by your hiring team rejecting what should be good candidates because: a) They don’t quite fit the position, b) Your applicant pool doesn’t include anybody your selection committee will consider, or c) In the final stages, seemingly good candidates don’t accept the position. Given enough time, almost any position can be filled, but just because you do so eventually doesn’t mean you don’t have a hiring problem. Quite the opposite; it may be your first sign of trouble.
Resolution: Once the job search is completed, you may want to spend more time than usual onboarding the new hire.
Make sure that they really understand the position and what you need from them: Not just the tasks, but the priorities and the most critical outcomes. If the person ends up leaving, use the experience to try and revise the position and the types of candidates you pursue. A faster and more effective process will probably be the outcome.
3. The Quicksand Job
Problem: A job that turns over three or more times over five years indicates that the job itself is flawed.
The employees holding these “quicksand jobs” may have different reasons for leaving (such as poor performance, another job, family demands, etc.).
Resolution: Think beyond the individual reasons employees give for the rapid turnover—and think about the position itself.
If you can, directly or through an intermediary, try to find out the “real” reason why people are leaving the quicksand job. Maybe it is because they felt they just couldn’t succeed or were bored or overwhelmed. Whatever the reason, take it seriously and use it to re-evaluate the position itself and your candidate pool before you hire again and experience one more disappointment.
Don’t Give Up
Remember, many times you can work out a hiring error with your direct report through communication and coaching. However, if they do leave, make sure that someone – not you if at all possible – completes an exit interview to understand why they are leaving. Though the employee probably has a good reason on the surface (such as a job offer they couldn’t refuse), asking questions like, “What changes or lessons would you suggest we keep in mind as we hire a replacement?" or "Would you recommend our organization to a friend looking for a position?" can provide an opportunity to learn about how the next hiring process can be more effective.
If you do want to change your hiring practices, you may want to check out our blog on weighing a pro search versus doing it yourself.
To learn more about crafting a high-quality process, download our book Lean Recruitment for free (a $9.99 value).
Also, don’t hesitate to reach out to me with questions. I welcome the opportunity to engage personally with you.