Q. I have an employee whose job is 40% writing and editing. She has a graduate degree in a relevant field from a mid-level school. After five months on the job it is clear her writing is not up to par for someone with her level of education. The problem has been identified and resources have been offered (e.g. style guides, resource books, writing exercises). However after six weeks of focused attention on performance improvement, the problem persists and she is not able to successfully complete 40% of her job.
Is my business required to offer a remedial writing course to her in a last ditch attempt to support her improvement? Or should we just pull the plug and let her go after six weeks of guided improvement efforts? What is required under the law, and what is good practice?
A. Hiring managers and organization hold some responsibility for the success of their new employees. While candidates may complain about difficult interview processes, they play a significant role in helping organizations make the right selection based on skills needed to be successful in the new role. Often, employees are charged with finding and hiring new employees without the experience of designing an effective selection process. I would suggest somewhere in your interview process this employee’s significant weakness should have been identified.
An effective process would have included writing samples. Was she given a piece to edit while she was in an interview? Were references checked, with specific questions relating to her writing and editing abilities asked? Often, hiring managers assume the skills set exists at the level they want, without communicating this clearly to references, or even the candidate.
Good practice was to offer her support in her job so that she can develop the level of expertise you need. She is able to successfully complete 60% of the work, and the six weeks of developmental support has not yet been enough to meet your standards for the remaining 40%.
Your assessment of her chances of being successful may carry more weight than about anything else. If you believe her current contributions are strong, and she has a chance of developing the skills you need to the level of expertise you want, you can continue to make an investment in her development. You might also ask if she is confident in her ability to meet those challenges and what support she might need, but only if you want to offer that opportunity. Either way, she deserves to be made aware of her status
If you lack confidence in her ability to make developmental strides toward the demands of the role, your organization should take note of their responsibility in the mis-hire. What is required under the law, and what is good practice, are not the same in this situation. If a separation is the solution you choose, I encourage you provide outplacement, severance, and references which support her success.
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Meet the Jobs Docs
Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.