Episode 316:Hire Slow, Fire Fast

Have you heard the term “hire slow, fire fast”? It’s making its way through the world of content catered to employers lately, and Paul Edwards and Moriah Ochoa wanted to sit down and talk about it. Is there any truth to it? What exactly does it mean? Listen to this week’s episode to hear their thoughts on the entire concept, and how they suggest you interpret the increasingly popular phrase.


Voice Over: You’re about to listen to another episode of What The Hell Just Happened?! Join Paul Edwards and his guests as they discuss and sometimes even solve some interesting HR problems. 

Paul: And… I’m gonna go off the rails sometimes and talk about whatever I want. 


Moriah: How are we doing today, Paul?


Paul: I don’t know how we’re doing, but I’m doing good, Moriah.


Moriah: Good. Well, I’m great as well.


Paul: I felt like that’s like my teacher asked me, “How are we doing today?”


Moriah: [laughing] Yeah. How are we doing today friend?


Paul: I’m doing quite well. Thank you for asking.


Moriah: Good. Well, there’s a phrase in HR that I-


Paul: Oh, we’re just going to get into it? 


Moriah: Yeah.


Paul: We’re just, no small talk or anything?


Moriah: I got an interesting topic for you, and I want to hear your opinions.


Paul: Okay, what the hell just happened in HR?


Moriah: Well, there’s this phrase that I often have in my mind when I’m talking to members and that I see used really often in HR materials: hire slow, fire fast.


Paul: Oh, yeah.


Moriah: And I think even when I am inclined to say that phrase, I get nervous because there’s an implied and a direct meaning of that phrase. Right?


Paul: Yes. Yes. Well, I know hire slow…the idea around ‘hire slow’ is just don’t hire the first warm body that you come across. Be intentional. 


Moriah: Sure. 


Paul: We could go deeper and deeper into what, how you should hire slow. Make good choices. Do a lot of work in advance, have job descriptions. Think about the best attributes. Maybe the last person who you had in that position and what their worst attributes are. Test for those things in the candidates that you’re talking to. I think that’s the hire slow. I think the fire fast is-


Moriah: Scary. 


Paul: Well, it’s scary but once, you know, you know, and a lot of this hold people in positions for months, weeks, days, okay years longer than we should because we’re conflict avoidant. 


Moriah: Mm hmm. 


Paul: And so the hire fast is the extreme of that. I did have a doctor talking to me one time, and I told him he sounded like he was in a closet. We were talking about his office manager.


Moriah: Okay. He was indeed in the closet, wasn’t he?


Paul: He was actually in the closet. And I said, “You sound like you’re in a closet.” He said, [whispers] “I am.” 


Moriah: [laughing]


Paul: And I said, “Why are you in the closet?” And he said, [whispers] “She’s outside my office door.”


Moriah: [laughing]


Paul: And I was like, “You sound like you’re scared of her.” And he’s like, “What part of, you know, what I’ve been talking to you about for the last week led you to believe otherwise?”


Moriah: That I wasn’t scared of her.


Paul: I, you know, and then to get back to the point, I was like, “How long has this been going on?” And he was like, “I hired her 20 years ago.”


Moriah: Oh, my goodness.


Paul: You know, so…


Moriah: Yeah.


Paul: Maybe fire fast would have been a good one for him.


Moriah: And we, you know, we hear it from members on that sort of scale where they’ve been, you know, tolerating issues for a really long time.


Paul: Hoping it’ll get better.


Moriah: Sure. 


Paul: Or don’t want to go back to the drawing board.


Moriah: And like you said, avoiding that direct management ultimately.


Paul: Well, you know, the hard part is, when I say hire slow and you follow all those things I said and more you spent, it means you spent a lot of time on someone and then, you know, three days in you know, you find out something about them-


Moriah: Exactly.


Paul: And you realize, wow, I didn’t make a great hire, but I put all that work in.


Moriah: Yes. At the other end of the spectrum, our members come to us and say, “I just hired this person and she has attitude issues”-


Paul: Yeah.


Moriah: Or “I just hired this person and she’s not actually capable of doing the job.”


Paul: She was great in the interview. I don’t know how she possibly could have been that good and now, but you know, now that person is not. 


Moriah: Yeah. 


Paul: Just remember everybody, when you’re hiring that, it’s, everybody’s trying to trick you. If I’m being interviewed, my job is to trick you. 


Moriah: To present yourself.


Paul: I hate to put it that way. To present myself in the best possible way, I’m reflecting for you. 


Moriah: Uh huh.


Paul: If you’re joking, laughing-


Moriah: Matching tone.


Paul: I’m joking, and you don’t even know that people are doing it when they’re doing it.


Moriah: Absolutely, yeah. So, of course, we’re going to track back to the hiring process. 


Paul: Yeah. 


Moriah: And what you did. If you conducted phone interviews first or if you had, you know, a big pool that you were choosing from. You know, what that interview looks like, what those behavioral questions may have looked like or those, you know, practical, situational questions may have looked like in the interview process.


Paul: Moriah, you’re in the solution center. I think you know that. [laughing]


Moriah: [laughing] Yeah. 


Paul: But just for everybody who’s listening, Moriah is one of the experts in the solution center. Did we ask, because we have a technique that we use sometimes, did we ask you the same? Did multiple people who interviewed you ask you some redundant questions, ask you maybe the same question more than once, or maybe…


Moriah: Yes.


Paul: Did we? Okay.


Moriah: Yes. Similar questions.


Paul: If you don’t know what’s going on there, is, we had a candidate one time who was testing very well, and was going through the process and towards final decision time and we’re kind of maybe, maybe we’re on the third interview, which was more than enough. We said “You look kind of upset, what’s going on?” And he said, “You all keep asking me the same damn question.

I’m tired of answering the same question over and over again.” And then he didn’t get the job because that’s the job. 


Moriah: Uh huh.


Paul: You guys come in every morning and you could have people in eight different states ask you exactly the same questions. [laughing]


Moriah: Sure.


Paul: Back to back. 


Moriah: Yes. 


Paul: And so I guess I don’t know what my point of sharing that was? [laughing]


Moriah: And those don’t seem, you know, redundant questions or questions phrased differently with the intent of similar outcomes. 


Paul: Yeah. 


Moriah: Really. 


Paul: Yeah. 


Moriah: Isn’t/aren’t huge hoops to jump through as an applicant, you know what I mean? 


Paul: Yeah.


Moriah: Like, you know, maybe ridiculous, long formatted tests?


Paul:  Right. 


Moriah: May be weird. Or if you’re applying to a restaurant, memorizing their full menu before you start might be above and beyond.


Paul: Oh yeah. Yeah.


Moriah: But, you know, answering questions and having multiple interviews doesn’t seem like crazy hoops to go through.


Paul:  Doesn’t seem like, but – 


Moriah: And like you said, they have no tolerance for that? 


Paul: Yeah.


Moriah: That’s a really good way to…


Paul: It’s not going to be a good fit. So that’s one of the ways we try to figure out if we have the right temperament. So we may have the right expertise and good articulation, great understanding, you could be teachable, you could be all these things. But if you have no patience for people asking you the same question over the phone, in this job, it’s not going to work for you. And, you know, we come to these kinds of tests and things by trial and error. 


Moriah: Yeah.


Paul: We end up hiring someone and it’s like, what is the problem? They’re like, “I’m so sick of the same questions.”


Moriah: Yeah. And that’s where that, you know, internal assessment, piece comes in.


Paul: Yep. Should’ve never hired him. Yep.


Moriah: And it’s so powerful. But even when you’re assessing, you know, your past employees and your current talent pool to find out what you need, you know, it’s really important to come to the table with those things, of course, to, you know, simmer it down to the skills and the attributes that you need in an applicant. 


Paul: Uh huh.


Moriah: But when you’re looking at your hiring pool, sometimes it can create constraints or challenges if you’re looking for that unicorn in a haystack that has everything. 


Paul: Yeah. 


Moriah: And I know that you’ve spoken to this, Paul, because I’ve heard you speak to this, but, you know, you’ve talked about how important diversity is on your team. 


Paul: Yeah. 


Moriah: And I think that even what you’re talking about can be applied to any industry. If you look for that one perfect person who has all of the skills and attributes that you’re looking for, not only is that going to create some barriers in the hiring process, but that may lead to, you know, finding out that they actually aren’t capable of all those things [laughing] because maybe there’s not one person- 


Paul: Because no one is…


Moriah: That can fit that. 


Paul: Yeah. 


Moriah: Yeah, right. All of those things. So when you’re looking at your talent pool and your, you know, internal what you need and what you have, you know, don’t be so naive to think that one person is necessarily going to fit all of your needs. 


Paul: Yeah. Yeah, for sure.


Moriah: You know, and that’s really the basis of elastic talent hiring and being flexible and yes, determining what you need and coming to the table with that. But also, you know, being flexible, looking internally. Seeing if you can move things around and how you can fill those positions. But when you have really solid hiring practices and you’re not turning around after 30 days and, you know, discovering that you’ve made a mistake, the feeling and the emotion behind, you know, adverse action when you’re coaching with somebody or when you’re engaging and, you know, trying to get somebody up to speed whether that be you know, figuring out how you can improve their positivity in the workplace or how you can have them come to work on time every day. When you’re, you know, dealing with misconduct like that, infractions of policy and you’re considering terminating someone, it’s important not to let those emotions, especially as business owners, we deal with a lot of business owners who are directly managing their employees. 


Paul: Yeah. 


Moriah: And a lot of stressed out business owners.


Paul: Well, you’ve been treating patients all day long and now you have, you’ve got something going on.


Moriah: Yes.


Paul: Something you know, something’s going on and you’ve got to go deal with it. And you may have little or no patience for it.


Moriah: You’ve been treating patients all day long, you’ve been dealing with a worldwide pandemic. Lots of our members have weather concerns.


Paul: Yup. 


Moriah: Are short staff just because of the hiring environment.


Paul: They have their own families. 


Moriah: Absolutely.


Paul: They have their own things that are going on for them. And this is the challenge of the small business owner, of that entrepreneur, of that medical or dental practice owner and the challenge is that you usually are wearing a lot of hats and the HR hat is the one they didn’t warn you about.


Moriah: Absolutely. Yes.


Paul: Just so, you know, what the hell just happened in HR?


Moriah: It’s the most difficult hat, I would argue.


Paul: It is the most difficult hat. And what the hell just happened is you opened up your practice and found out that you hate managing people or that you’re not good at it because you don’t have any experience at it.


Moriah: And that’s not to say that, you know, those emotions that are playing into how you feel about this employee situation aren’t valid. 


Paul: Oh, no. Yeah.


Moriah: Maybe they do have, you know, attendance issues and that’s unacceptable. Maybe they do have, you know, attitude issues while they’re at work. And that’s important. But, you know, leave it to the HR professionals to help you kind of separate those emotional feelings and your stress in dealing with, you know, the complexities of business ownership and management into what can you take into employment practices and what is actually legitimate to take into consideration when you’re, you know, discipline, disciplining or potentially separating from an employee.


Paul: Yeah. And so hire slow, fire fast.


Moriah: Yes.


Paul: Just don’t drag it out.


Moriah: Just don’t drag it out. Directly manage your employees. Have those conversations and reach out to HR professionals for some help with language because when you’ve got that language in your pocket heading into a discussion with an employee, that’s really powerful.


Paul: There’s different ways to talk to different people. You can, you know, we all tend to have a way. Our way. This is how we are with people when we want to talk about something. 


Moriah: Yes. 


Paul: I think the, you know, just the…Sometimes getting a little third, a little bit of outside perspective on something and I know we’ll be solving a problem and I’ll say something to the doctor. He’s like, “But she can’t take any kind of constructive feedback.”


Moriah: Uh huh.


Paul:  And I’m like, “Are you asking for permission before you talk to her?” He’s like, “What do you mean?” Are you saying, “Can I share something with you that I think I want you to improve upon? Or are you saying something else?” And, you know, those are the types of insights that you hope to get when you’re kind of, you know, working with experts who can give, you know, a different way of approaching a problem.


Moriah: And it can feel impossible to truly, you know, determine what the next best step is. 


Paul: Yeah. 


Moriah: And so when you’re able to have a constructive conversation with somebody who knows, you know, the laws and the regulations that are, you know, applicable in your area and really know what you can and can’t do, that’s going to give you some confidence looking into that interaction with that employee.


Paul: Yeah, our tendency, I think, is owners and managers sometimes is to make a rule up and try to make everybody adhere to the rule when a lot of times you’ve got a human problem going on and it’s a one on one thing.


Moriah: Yep and you don’t want to be the bad guy by bringing up issues or, you know, speaking to an employee in a different tone than you would. 


Paul: Yeah. 


Moriah: Look, Paul, you’ll be talking to me in a different tone than we are now. You know, convivially, over employee issues than you would if I was late every day or, you know, if I stopped doing my work. So that tone would sound different. 


Paul: Yeah.


Moriah: And it doesn’t make you a bad guy. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It just means that you’re directly managing your employees and that tone shift is perfectly acceptable and necessary.


Paul: It’s a very difficult muscle to work out, to give good, immediate, constructive feedback when you feel like, I think a lot of us are defensive ourselves?


Moriah: Yes.


Paul: And we’re like, if someone did this to me, I would react poorly or I might not be able to handle it, and therefore I’m not going to do it to this person. And I get that train of thought. That is how humans work. But the fact is, you can’t manage your business that way. You’ve got to be able to give somebody immediate and constructive feedback. And what I found is that most people appreciate it and they can act on it. If you can do it in a good, constructive way and the ones that don’t, can’t accept it and you can’t figure out how to communicate and they can’t figure out how to hear you. Well, we get back to fire fast. 


Moriah: Yes. 


Paul: Let’s just…it’s okay. This is just not the situation that we should be in together. And I will set them free to go find a better situation someplace else.


Moriah: [laughing] You’re free. You’re free to leave.


Paul: Yup. You’re free to leave. 


Moriah: [laughing]


Paul: I like this subject. You know, you can probably tell I have a lot of, I’ve made so many mistakes in this area as a business owner throughout my career.


Moriah: And look, that’s what it takes. I come from the management background as well. I was an HR director for a large franchise, 700 employees, and so, you know, I went from directly managing employees to teaching people how to directly manage their employees.


Paul: And it probably felt like you didn’t have exactly what you needed to do that.


Moriah: It really didn’t because, you know, it takes even more practice to delegate that genuinely to somebody on your team than to do it directly. But like you said, it’s a muscle. And if you don’t exercise that muscle, it’s going to feel uncomfortable, you know, and that tone shift is going to feel maybe wrong, you know? But like you said, and I use this with members a lot, the best thing that you can do to protect your business and to protect the employee is be clear and concise with them.


Paul: Yeah. Yeah. Deliver the thing that you expect.


Moriah: And if that’s not received well initially or ever, you know, most people really do respect having solid expectations and clear and concise communication.


Paul: Yeah, absolutely. Well, thanks for bringing this.


Moriah: Thank you, Paul, for having me.

Voice Over: Thanks for joining us for this week’s episode of What The Hell Just Happened? do Paul a favor; share this with your network. If you have an HR issue or a question, and you’d like us to discuss it on this show, send it to podcast@WTHjusthappened.com. For more HR advice and insights from Paul and his team of experts, you can also join the private Facebook group, HR Base Camp, or visit HRbasecamp.com. Make sure you tune in next week. And remember: better workplaces make better lives.

May 8, 2023

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