You’ve got a great product or service to sell. You’ve identified your target audience and are creating a market niche for yourself. But, you can’t do everything yourself, so you begin to hire employees to help you. Following that stage, many entrepreneurs find themselves with their employees going through a revolving door and eventually determine that, although it means working 14 + hour days, it is better to do it all themselves. What happened? You probably didn’t hire the right people.
L. Ron Hubbard recognized that there are three classes of employees. To quote from his 19 September, 1958 article entitled A Model Hat for an Executive:
“We have then three classes of personnel:
“1. The Willing,
“2. The defiant negative,
“3. The wholly shiftless.”
More importantly, however, he recognized that classes two and three are not employable. They won’t get the job done. They won’t do what you ask. They will take more time in training and correction than they ever produce back in products for you.
The trick? Don’t hire them in the first place and, if you do, let them go quickly.
I know that you are a philanthropist at heart and you like to help people. You are sorry for the single mom with three kids at home and want to give her a chance. I know it may sound a little cold-hearted—but how does that align to your business purpose? Nothing against single moms—many of them are very willing employees, which is what you want. You need to look at each job applicant and each employee individually and determine what category he or she falls into, and act accordingly.
If you’ve got an individual who always talks back when asked to do something, and seems to know better than you—who is telling you how to run your business—but refuses to perform the tasks you set out for them, he or she is a “defiant negative” and chances are that person is not going to change. Fire them.
If you’ve got an employee who always comes in late, takes time at the coffee machine and eventually wanders to his work station; spends time checking his email (or the latest Facebook posts), and maybe puts in ½ hour of production before it is time to head out for lunch, recognize the wholly shiftless individual and tell the employee this isn’t the job for him. Perhaps give him a little leeway and mention the outpoints and tell the employee his behavior is unacceptable. But if it is not corrected swiftly, let him go.
You have a product or service to sell and deliver to your public. You need to surround yourself with people who are willing to help you, willing to work, willing to achieve production targets and willing to get things done.
In job interviews ask people what they’ve done that they are proud of. Look for actual targets and goals attained (“I introduced a new marketing campaign that 2x’d our sales” “I wrote 8 articles that promoted our products and got them published in industry magazines” “I cleaned out the supply room and implemented an inventory system that saved us money on supplies and cut down on theft and loss”).
Ask applicants what they would do if they’ve completed their assigned tasks for the day. Inquire as to what they’ve done in the past to improve their working environments. Ask what they do in their spare time—are they doers with hobbies or are they couch potatoes? Ask what book they are reading—are they inquisitive and willing to learn? Investigate their willingness to contribute and help.
As soon as it becomes obvious that you’ve made a mistake and hired someone who is not willing, let that person go swiftly. Too often I have clients with employment discrimination claims brought by former employees who weren’t let go until way beyond their time. The employer kept trying to work with the employee to get him or her to improve, but the employee clearly wasn’t working with the employer. More specifically, the employee was not willing to improve and was not willing to do his or her job—despite repeated efforts by the employer and repeated offers of help. When the employee’s claim gets to court (or before an agency enforcing discrimination laws) it looks like the employee must not have been all that bad or the employer would not have kept the employee on for five years, eight years, or even fifteen years. Don’t let the dead wood weigh your business down. Fire them when it becomes clear they are not being part of your team.
Moral of the story? Be familiar with Mr. Hubbard’s three classes of employees and only hire and retain those that are willing and you will build a productive team.