Every company — no matter how big or small — makes hiring mistakes. It’s just a reality of being in the business of hiring people. If you’re looking at just culture fit and job role fit, there are four kinds of employees. Ones who are good fits in both categories are obviously ideal. When an employee is a bad culture fit and also not right for their job role, the decision to let them go, while never a choice that’s taken lightly, is not usually fraught with indecision. Those who are bad culture fits but great at their jobs are workable; they’ll stay until something better for them comes along. The last group, however, is a little more challenging.
Employees who are perfect culture fits but not quite right in their specific job roles are tough to handle. Sure, you want employees who are invested in the company’s mission, get along with their coworkers, and can see themselves staying long-term. However, you need your business to function efficiently, and anything that gets in the way of that needs to be dealt with. Some companies will let these employees go, or make their working conditions difficult enough that they end up quitting. Smart companies, however, find new roles for these people.
A couple of months ago, TheSkimm, a media company that delivers daily news digests to their newsletter subscribers, shared a story about being in this very situation. Instead of firing an employee they loved who wasn’t excelling in his role, the founders took the time to test his skill sets and figure out where he could do better work. “Six months later, he is flourishing in a totally different role on our team, with a brand new skill set under his belt,” they said in their post. “He has always been driven and a great culture add — but now he is actually helping us expand a part of our company.” Just like that, a less-than-ideal situation was turned into an advantageous one with a bit of hard work and strategizing.
So how can managers know if it’s worthwhile to employ a similar approach when they realize they’ve hired the wrong person for a specific role, and how can they get it done? Here are five steps to making an internal transition work.
1. Look for these two qualities.
Before you decide you’re going to go through the effort to put someone into a new role, you need to ask yourself, “Is this person a good fit with our company culture?” and “Are they a hard worker?” If the answer to both is yes, then you can move forward. “Hard workers are tough to find,” notes Cathy Donahoe, VP of Human Resources at Domo. “However, finding a hard-working employee who is also able to seamlessly transition into a company’s unique culture is much more difficult to find. If you’ve found someone who is both, it’s worth the extra resources and time to invest in the kind of employee, because they can ultimately benefit the company’s bottom line.”
2. Consider the costs.
Speaking of the bottom line, keeping good employees for years can actually benefit it. “You can cut time, energy and money wasted by investing in an employee that wants to stay at your company for years to come, as opposed to hiring a “short-term” employee that addresses an immediate hiring need, but isn’t a long term fit,” explains Donahoe. Before you take action one way or another, it’s a good idea to make sure the transition makes financial sense. Chances are, it will.
3. Get in the “team” mindset.
“In situations like this I think it’s important to remember that a high-performing, successful company is similar to a high-performing, winning sports team,” notes Donahoe. “Many HR professionals tend to think of employees as a ‘family,’ but I find that doesn’t fully encompass the extent to which a company’s culture can impact performance.” Essentially, hiring managers should be treating their employees like all-star players, who would never be traded to another team (or move organizations) without a lot of careful thought about their skills and what they bring to the table. Job switches can work out for the better, “you just have to ensure that your key players are in the right positions so they can reach their maximum potential.” This means that a thorough skills assessment is in order before any further steps are taken.
4. Do a deep dive into their skill set.
“People are often placed in jobs based on their prior titles and number of years of experience,” explains Carisa Miklusak, CEO of Tilr. This approach doesn’t always work out well since it doesn’t account for how the employees’ skills actually line up with the job’s requirements. “Data shows that when you focus on the skill set that someone has and match those skills to the requirement of the jobs, productivity increases and cultural fit becomes a natural byproduct,” she notes.
5. Be transparent about what’s happening.
Once you’ve made a decision to keep an employee but put them in a different position, you need to give them all the information about what’s about to happen. “To reallocate effectively while keeping the employee engaged, an organization must be honest and state that they are committed to the employee and their development, but don’t feel they are in the best opportunity to grow and learn,” says Milusak. For the employee who is being moved, it’s crucial to know that they’re valued at the company, and that’s why this process is happening. ”Despite the time investment, this type of commitment to an employee generally provides an excellent ROI, as they become equally as dedicated to the company,” adds Miklusak. In other words, putting time and effort into making sure employees are flourishing in their roles is worth it in the long run.