Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hire, don’t fire

Print Friendly and PDF “I have told almost 300 employees to go home.” one senior guy was proudly telling us in our regular meeting. This person was known in the company for his wise conversation skills. While speaking with the employees he uses to catch employees in words. He was also known for politicizing issues.

It is very difficult to hire a good employee. It is very easy to sack somebody. You should be proud for hiring good people. If you are sacking somebody and so frequently, it means your hiring is very bad.

“Sir, I hired almost 1000 employees in my career and they all are doing well. They still call me and ask my advice on the issues they face in life.” I replied, “I have fired very few people in my career. I am not proud to say this.” I replied, “However the companies are also doing well where they are working.”

Identifying the talent in the market is very critical. I also sacked employees in my career. This is one of unpleasant jobs; we HR professionals have to do. But the option should be exercised as a last option in respective cases. In one big company, where I was heading the Plant HR & IR function, we had given the charge sheet to almost 20 employees for their habitual absenteeism; few were for abetting to strike. Few cases were suspension pending enquiry. The cases and misconducts were very grave. We completed the enquiry. All found guilty and we were justified to terminate these employees. However on the request of union and considering their family situation, we agreed to get the personal bond for good conduct. In industrial relations, there is no right or wrong decision. You have to analyze the situation before any decision. I personally counseled them in presence of union office bearers and plant head. “You should be present for all working days in a year in the company. Your one day, absence may warrant your termination. We had enquiry reports with us, we had already issued the show causes to your on the finding of enquiry report and you have given the good conduct bond. Now ball is in your court.” I explained. Sometimes you should be blunt to tell the fact during counseling.

After two months union called one day flash strike. It means above employees did not report to work. They are technically absent on duties. As pressure tact, we decided to terminate some employees who had committed grave misconducts. I made the letters and put for the sign of plant head as he was the authorized to sign such papers. “These are my first terminations in my life and I am not proud to do this.” He said to me before signing the papers.

Above cases were the isolated cases of Industrial relations. Sometimes you have few options in such scenario. As a part of my profession, I had to do this unpleasant work.

Termination of white collar employees is totally different task. In fact very easy as compare to blue collar terminations. In isolated cases it is again very easy, but I always see the reason why we need to terminate somebody. These are improvement areas. Why I need to sack the person? Performance issues? Discipline? Behaviors ? what are reasons?

Bad hiring, no proper feedback or HR system can be the root cause of all these.

During recession, we all must have dealt with this. The terminologies like Manpower Planning, HR planning has no meaning sometimes. Companies hired the employees without any future projections. If you need 5 people, management was ready to give you 7 without much justifications. But then recession brought them on the ground. There are companies who exercised the downsizing as a last option. But in business, “you have no any other option” is the last statement.

One day top boss of the company call me and bluntly told me, “I think Mr. X is creating more problems now and you need to seriously tell him to go home. If he is not ready to put the papers, just terminate him.” He was referring about the same senior person who once told me that he had asked almost 300 guys and girls to go home. One circle completed. I believe intention matters. His intention was different, my intention is different.

9 comments:

Shamik said...

Termination is always a sensitive issue and I have come to believe that it is the business need and not the intention of HR Manager that drives such decisions. HR Manager does not decide who to keep and who to remove on his own, it is always the reporting head and HR's role is limited to make the transition fair, smooth and litigation free.

Vinod Bidwaik said...

HR manager plays important role in every aspects of Human Resource. Termination on performance and disciplanary issues are not the buinsess needs. They are the result of poor HR management. If everything is decided by reporting head, why the HR is needed in the organization?

we need to change the typical mindset about HR that HR is only for execution and making transition fair and smooth.

Shamik Vora said...

This is interesting and classical debate, if possible more people should give their views.

Is not reporting head responsible to get the job done from the resource made available to him? If he gets good job done, he is rewarded, and, if this resource does not perform well, is it not his responsibility to 'own up' termination decision?

Discipline, yes possibly the only area where HR can be 'independent' decision maker.

Difference is:

In case of performance, HR acts as a consultant, counselor and arbitrator but onus of making decision to terminate must be on reporting head.

In case of discipline, roles are reversed between HR and reporting head.

In case of redundancy due to business fluctuation, it is the business owner who decides and HR jointly identifies redundancy with reporting head and communicates to person concerned.


If one looks at ratio of above three situations, he will realize that first situation is likely to occur more than second or third and hence I see major role of HR as an internal management consultant and an arbitrator rather than a decision maker.

Amal said...

Hi All
Business never runs in isolation. I have worked in a company where management had a culture of sacking employees for small / no reasons as per their whims and fancies. In such type of companies moral / motivation of employees is very low and they are always on a look for opportunities outside. In my opinion no business can grow unless employees are motivated and devoted.
Before firing due consideration should be given to past records of the employee i.e how was his past performance, since how long he has been associated with the company etc and whether a employee(genuine case) can be adjusted some where else.
As per me firing an employee means giving him financial death and same is worse than a physical death. HR plays very important role in the company and he should try to ensure that in case of firing a proper case has been made out secondly due warning and hearing is given to employees to be fired. If necessary then proper notice(in my opinion 3 months) should be given to employee along with all statutory payable dues.
During recession time all good companies preferred to reduce salary of all staff rather than firing few. Infosys even went to a limit to help employees to get a job outside also. There is no reason why these companies should not grow in future.

Amal said...

Hi All
Business never runs in isolation. I have worked in a company where management had a culture of sacking employees for small / no reasons as per their whims and fancies. In such type of companies moral / motivation of employees is very low and they are always on a look for opportunities outside. In my opinion no business can grow unless employees are motivated and devoted.
Before firing due consideration should be given to past records of the employee i.e how was his past performance, since how long he has been associated with the company etc and whether a employee(genuine case) can be adjusted some where else.
As per me firing an employee means giving him financial death and same is worse than a physical death. HR plays very important role in the company and he should try to ensure that in case of firing a proper case has been made out secondly due warning and hearing is given to employees to be fired. If necessary then proper notice(in my opinion 3 months) should be given to employee along with all statutory payable dues.
During recession time all good companies preferred to reduce salary of all staff rather than firing few. Infosys even went to a limit to help employees to get a job outside also. There is no reason why these companies should not grow in future.

Prasad Deshpande said...

Very interesting topic, I would like to add to what Shamik is saying and take it further from there.

HR should take up the responsibility of driving the Performance Appraisal System, this system should be jointly made by reporting heads of different departments and HR and the implementation / adherence should be HR responsibility rather than reporting head.

HR can & should play an Important proactive role in Internal Training on soft skills and functional training can be outsourced if required. This again raises a question of Identifying who are the individual who require further training, here appraisal can help in identifying.

Prachi said...

Hello Everybody,

Definitely we need to put manpower planning, HR planning in action.
Decision of firing is generally taken by the functional bosses and routed through HR.
Recession has given us a chance to think…………….. on how do we handle this since we have gone through this phase recently.
I , too ,am not of the opinion of firing people.
Basically HR should be involved in decision making
I do agree with Mr. Vora, that ‘disciplinary issues’ is the area where HR can work independently, but sometimes the independence is limited here too.

Any ways from my view, HR should be considered as a gearing wheel and should be involved in decision making process in the achievement of organization objectives.

Dhananjay said...

Towards the end of 2008, the firm I was working with fully and abruptly shut down an 80-strong editorial section in New Delhi that was at the heart of a newly launched newspaper brand. What was weird (and heart-breaking) about my experience (I was heading this section) was that the head of HR was conspicuous by his/her absence from the scene of action! I am still at a loss for words at such insensitivity on the part of the employers.

Shamik Vora said...

I agree with expectations of Dhananjay. HR can not debunk responsibility of explaining reason for shut down by absenting from scene of action.

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