Workforce Management

What to Do When an Employee Isn’t Working Out

One of the most daunting tasks that HR is expected to carry out is employee termination. A firing is fair when an employee has been given the tools to succeed but hasn’t found success. That means before you make the decision to terminate an employee, it’s important to evaluate if they’ve been given the tools to succeed.

Here are a few strategies to evaluate whether you’ve given your employees enough opportunity to do well in their position.

Identify the Problem

Identifying the problem means analyzing the situation the under-performing employee is facing: is their manager known for burning through new hires? Has the job evolved beyond the original job description? Has the onboarding process been effective for this employee? Answering these questions provides insight into the entire employee experience.

In a sense, answering these questions gives you the chance to step into the employee’s shoes and see what working conditions are like through their eyes. By discovering what an employee is going through, you get a chance to identify weaknesses in your workplace.

If the employee’s performance problems are due to conditions beyond their control, firing them and replacing them with someone else who will experience the same issues is a highly effective way to waste the company’s money.

Remember that hiring a new employee is costly – according to a SHRM study, “the average cost-per-hire is $4,129, while the average time it takes to fill a given position is 42 days.” That’s a lot of time and money to go without production in any position, so adopt the mindset that fixing problems is cheaper than replacing employees.

Evaluate the Hiring Process

If you’ve identified the problem, and it’s not something other than the employee themselves, there may be an issue with your hiring process.

To attract top talent, several companies are focusing their efforts on developing an attractive company culture. Here are a few ways to market your company to the right candidates:

1. Invest in Development

Modern candidates know they are investing a lot in your company – their time, their resources, and their talent. That makes it important to invest in them, and providing opportunities to grow their career through training and development initiatives is a great way to show candidates that you value their time and talent.

2. Offer the Opportunity for Meaningful Work

One of the best ways to keep employees engaged is to offer meaningful work. If a candidate can see engagement and satisfaction in their prospective coworkers, they can be sure that they will be offered the same opportunity to let their work make an impact on the entire organization.

3. Develop a Coaching Mindset

At BizLibrary, one of our core values is the “Freedom to Fail.” That’s because if employees aren’t allowed to fail, they’re not allowed to learn! A sharp employee takes every failure in stride, and grows from failure.

A good coach offers lessons to learn from failure. Think about a football coach: when their team loses, they watch game tape to find weaknesses in their process. If a coach didn’t encourage their team to learn from failure, they wouldn’t last very long!

Adopting this kind of mindset within your company culture will make sure you attract — and retain — the most forward-thinking and ambitious employees.

Make the Right Call

If you see a motivated employee in the wrong position, one option you could consider is redefining their role. This option is not only more cost-effective, but it allows you to keep talented people who may not be in a role where their skills are being optimized.

On the other hand, if you’re sure that you’ve given an under-performing employee every chance to succeed, and you’ve found weaknesses in your hiring process that put someone into a role where they wouldn’t succeed, it may be time to let them go. Let them know that you appreciate their time, but the results that they’ve delivered don’t align with your organization’s goals. Wish them the best, and thank them again.

It still isn’t an easy decision to make, but by carefully weighing your options, evaluating your organization’s role in an employee’s lack of success, and making the right call, you can be confident in your decision.

To ensure you’re making the best hiring decisions in the first place, check out this post on finding the right person for the job:

Business Interview


Training & Development Industry Researcher | Derek researches, discusses, and writes about the impacts of employee learning on organizations and individuals. He regularly interviews L&D and HR professionals, sharing their insight on trends and best practices that help organizations create stronger training programs, and help to grow their employees and their business.