November 25, 2013

Pure HirePreviously Undetected Recruiting Error (PURE)

“PURE hire” was a term Anderson Accounting leaders used when they realized that they had made a “Previously Undetected Recruiting Error.” Anderson made a number of mistakes during its peak, not the least of which was its handling of Enron. The term “PURE hire” was a mistake, too. It sounds innocuous, even pleasant, but mis-hires can have catastrophic consequences. These individuals can become organizational terrorists and cause cultural rifts. They can alienate loyal, hard-working, and effective employees, and raise questions about the fitness of leadership or the direction of the organization. These mis-hires are often at the center of triangulating conversations, too.

As I’ve written before, CEOs and leaders should take part in the hiring process as much as possible, and they should exercise veto power if they detect a poor cultural fit. Hiring employees who don’t share the organization’s values and contribute to its vision and mission will inevitably cause friction, no matter how skilled these individuals are.

Sometimes mis-hires happen even when prospective employees are vetted for their cultural fit. What leaders do in these circumstances speaks volumes about their leadership and the stability of the organization. Too many leaders stand behind the hiring decision, rather than the organization’s values. These leaders might move the “PURE hires” to another position or change their reporting structure, instead of addressing the real problem. Perhaps it’s ego that prevents these leaders from owning up to their mistakes or maybe it’s guilt. Either way, it makes the problem worse, not better.

Other leaders lump all blame on the mis-hired employee. They misconstrue a poor fit as evidence of flaws or poor performance. This is, of course, unfair to mis-hired employees, who leave without strong references and lots of explaining to do to other prospective employers.

Leaders shouldn’t operate out of guilt, ego, anger, or judgment. Once they realize someone doesn’t fit in their organization’s culture, they should simply try to move the individual out of the organization. They should speak honestly about why it’s not a good fit, and help the individual find a better place for their skills, personality, behaviors, and beliefs.

Do you have some “PURE hires” that need to be addressed? What is holding you back from acting?

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