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My best mistake: Hiring a badly behaved employee

It’s not always easy to find the perfect candidate, but as Rowdy McLean discovered, hiring the wrong one can be seriously detrimental to your business. Here’s how this entrepreneur turned his misfortune around.

Running a training and seminar speaking business means owner Rowdy McLean is constantly busy. When he was looking to hire someone earlier this year to ease the load in the office, he didn’t cover all his bases before choosing the final candidate.

“I employed a new staff member without really taking the time to check their references and conduct a comprehensive appraisal of their work history,” McLean admits. “Unfortunately this employee was not committed to the organisation or to their role. They often took time off without a reasonable explanation. This put pressure on the rest of the team and impacted overall staff morale.”

In the midst of a busy period in the office, it took some time to realise the extent of his mistake in hiring the wrong person for the job.

“The staff member had been taking days off on a regular basis. Because we were so busy and having this person away made us busier, I didn’t really take a look at the situation until another staff member pointed out that when this staff member had days off sick, there were also posts on their Facebook page the same day saying what a great movie they had just seen or how fantastic the surf was at a particular spot – complete with pictures of them catching some waves.”

Knowing that the staff member was deliberately skipping work and leaving others in the lurch shocked McLean.

“I couldn’t believe that someone would be so false, misleading and dishonest – or for that matter so stupid.

“It was obvious that this person was in for a good time and not a long time. I finally took the time to contact some of their previous employers and found that it was a pattern they had also had while employed in those jobs.”

With such blatant bad work behaviour being exhibited, McLean was forced to take drastic action to ensure that this behaviour wasn’t seen as being encouraged.

“I had to let them go. I had to set an example for the other staff, that if you were sick then you had better be sick!”

“It was a tough call, but ultimately it had an impact on the business (the cost of replacing the lost hours) and the morale of the other staff (they felt it was either unfair for that person to do that or worse, thought they could do it too).”

Once this period was over, McLean made sure that he covered his bases for the future.

“I made sure all staff were aware of the situation and the impact on the business and I made it absolutely clear that it would not be tolerated. Not only was this affecting the way we operated, it was having an adverse impact on staff culture and morale.”

He also ensured that work practices and standards were reinforced among the team.

“The business is growing rapidly and the team culture is stronger than ever. Most importantly we are absolutely clear on what is and what is not acceptable behaviour. I am far more diligent about who I let on to my team. I am also really focused on finding out people’s past behaviour and monitoring staff behaviour – particularly during their probation period.”

To help you avoid this particular hiring mistake, McLean has shared these three tips for recruitment.

1. Prior Planning – One of the biggest problems in small business is the failure to plan, we react to what our clients, the market and the economy throw at us rather than plan. When you plan you can see what is needed on the horizon, so instead of thinking I need someone NOW you can instead see I will need someone at some stage in the future and this is the exact role they will fill.

2. Rigorous Recruiting – Whoever you employee, they’re going to have an impact on the efficiency, productivity, profit and culture of the business so it’s extremely important that they have the right attitude, skills and behaviour to fit the role and the organisation. Get more people to apply, interview more people and trial more people than you think you need. It’s critical that you are clear on who you want and why and reject any that don’t fit. If you compromise on this it will cause you pain in the future.

3. Clear Expectations – When a new employee starts, be really clear about what is acceptable and what is not right from the get go. Then regularly check in on their progress (preferably daily in the first few weeks, then every week for the first few months) then at least monthly ongoing and always check on what’s working well and what’s working better. Effective, productive employees that enhance your culture are the path to a bigger game in business.

McLean’s new book ‘Play a Bigger Game: How to achieve more, be more, do more and have more’ is a must read for business owners who want to take their business to the next level. Available in bookstores and online.

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Rhiannon Sawyer

Rhiannon Sawyer

[NB: Rhiannon Sawyer no longer works for Dynamic Business]. Rhiannon Sawyer is the editor for Dynamic Business online. She also looks after online content for Dynamic Export. She loves writing business profiles and is fascinated by the growing world of homegrown online businesses and how so many people can make money in their pyjamas.

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