We've all been there- you lose an employee and you need to replace them by tomorrow afternoon. So, you start making calls, asking current employees for their friends' numbers, and put a hastily written sign in your window or post on your social media networks. 'Help' it screams, 'I'm desperate, and in need of someone with a pulse', and that's exactly what you get. Occasionally this will work out well, it may have worked out once or twice for you, but I'll wager it's turned out badly more times than not, and I guarantee that each of these events has cost you a good deal in money, goodwill , employee relations, time, energy and more.
The reason we've all been there, is because in many ways that is how we run our businesses, as well as being one of the pitfalls of employing humans. Sometimes it is necessary to fire someone- or worse, we fear putting ourselves in the situation of being stuck, so we hang on to employees who should be terminated long past their expiration date. Sometimes people quit with little or no notice, or they get sick, or a relative does … the list is endless, but there are ways to minimize if not mitigate the impact of these situations.
Let's start with what it costs you to make a bad hire. First there is the cost of hiring any employee; time to fill out paperwork, any orientation or training. If things are going well, and you have landed an individual with potential for growth and longevity in your operation, you are investing well. If you hired someone who is adequate, or worse, much of this investment will be wasted when in two to six months you lose them, and restart the process (and investment) with someone new. Add to this the frustration that your staff and customers must endure while you spend time admitting to yourself that this person isn't working out. This hurts your credibility with all your owners, as well as the enormous amount of energy you now have to invest in monitoring them, so you can terminate them in a way that does not make you vulnerable to a lawsuit (if they are in one of a large and growing list of protected classes).
Happily there are ways to avoid getting boxed into this type of emergency hiring! One of the greatest assets a small business can have is a mix of full and part time employees. Part-time employees can often get you through a crunch time when business is super busy, and can also be your safety net when you lose someone unexpectedly, as they often can, and willingly, take on extra hours for short periods of time.
It is critical to have a system of progressive corrective action in place. These systems aren't just for big corporations; they are effective for every size business! They create a structure that keeps employees clear on your policies and procedures, your minimum expectations, and keeps everyone current on where they stand. If you have one or two employees on a final warning status, it's time to start looking for their replacements. This can often be enough to get someone's attention, and help them correct their behavior, though in my experience, those 'changes' rarely stick for long. This will give you time to really interview candidates, check their references, and make sure they are a good fit. It will also help you create a list of potential prospects, if you end up needing more than one new employee-don't discard those applications from viable candidates, you may want to hire them at a later date, if you lose someone else, or better yet, your business grows as a result of your great staffing practices.