Why do new employees fail?

Why do new employees fail?

Spoiler Alert: If a manager tells me they have a bad employee, I blame the manager. Always. No Exceptions.

So why do new employees fail?

The number one reason new employees fail is that the manager did a lousy job with the hiring process. Or in some cases, the recruiter or human resources did a poor job.

I was talking to a group of managers at a large HVAC company in Middle Tennessee about hiring people for their organizations. They were frustrated with new employees who didn’t perform well. I asked them about their interview process, and I realized that the problem wasn’t with the employee, it was with their hiring process.

In today’s employment market, it is harder to find good candidates. In one of my classes, I asked the participants what they look for in a candidate during the hiring process. Someone in the back of the room shouted out.

“Are they breathing?”

We all laughed because we all have been that desperate.

I asked the person if they were serious, and they said unfortunately yes. It had gotten that bad in their manufacturing plant. They were hiring almost anyone walking through the door.

“What is your turnover rate?” I asked genuinely curious.

Only about fifty percent of new hires made it passed the sixty-day mark. The main reason was poor job design. The employees worked twelve-hour shifts in a manufacturing plant where the average temperature was around 85 degrees. The secondary reason was the poor hiring process. They didn’t even take the candidates into the manufacturing facility.

Of course, for most companies, we don’t work our employees in twelve-hour shifts however there is a lesson for us all. If we don’t get our hiring process right, employees will fail.

Some organizations’ hiring process is like speed dating. We interview a candidate for twenty minutes and decide if we will hire that person or not. We go on gut instinct. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Here are ways to make the hiring process better.

  1. Define clear expectations: Normally this is done using the job description. A good job description will have the results you expect of the role, a list of tasks and responsibilities, and the necessary qualifications for the role.
  2. Communicate the expectations: The expectations need to be communicated in the job posting and in the interview process. One of my favorite lines from a job posting was, “This job is not for everyone.” It is bold and it tells the applicant that this might not be the job for you. It went on to say, “Everyone who works here loves their job.”
  3. Explain the Job: What will it be like for them to work here? The good and the bad. I interviewed for a company, and one of the best things they told me in the interview process was that they were in growth mode, so job responsibilities and reporting structures were changing a lot. And what I am being hired to do, may change in a few months.  
  4. Interview for Value Match: Does the person’s values match the organization’s cultural values? When we hire someone, we are bringing them into our community of employees. They will be a citizen of our company and will need to follow the rules, written and unwritten for them to be successful.
  5. Interview for Experience/Knowledge: Duh, right. Of course, this is interviewing 101. However, I don’t just want you to ask, “Do they have the knowledge and ability to be successful in the organization?” I also want you to ask, “What do I need to do to prepare them for a career in my company based on what I learned about them in the hiring process?”
  6. Build an Onboarding Process that works: A lot of small businesses have an orientation that lasts less than a half-day and expect the employee to start working in the afternoon. No matter how “perfect” your new employee is they will not have the situational knowledge needed to be successful at your company.  They need to know what it feels like to work here, who should they go to with issues, what acronyms or other shorthand the company uses, how to use the tools they will be assigned, etc.
  7. Monitor their Progress: When we are learning something new it takes time to master it. During the learning phase, they will need recognition and guidance to help them become effective in their role. One technique used in helping employees is to set up them up with a mentor, a more experienced employee who is excelling in their role.

The hiring process is not a single moment but steps that if done properly are preparing your employee for success and not failure.

In the HVAC company, the reason employees were not performing well was that the managers didn’t understand the concept of situational knowledge. What is appropriate to do in one company may not be appropriate to do in another. It needs to be taught. After our conversation, they changed their onboarding process to introduce new employees to the company’s ways and values.

New employees fail because the manager has failed them.


Do you need help improving your management core? From strategic planning to employee engagement, manager training, leadership coaching, to organizational compliance, I help organizations become better. 

Get a COMPLIMENTARY Consultation to see how together we can build a better team. Or check out the workshops I can customize for your organization. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More stories that matter

Letting Go

It is the hardest of changes…letting go. People ask, “Why have you been successful in your career?” I said, “Knowing when to let go.”  Imagine

Read More »

How can I serve you?

Have a question about leadership or management?

Ask away! I read and reply to every question.

Ask John