(Updated on 24th August, 2021 with lockdown inputs)
The havoc wreaked by the Covid19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown on the economy and job market is only just starting to show its claws. The worst, I believe, is yet to come! And at this time, when revenues are shrinking, the future looks bleak and lay-offs are on everyone’s mind, the repercussions of this popular startup recruitment mantra – hire fast, fire fast – is really starting to come apart at the seams.
Let me explain, with a recollection of an incident…
This happened at an accelerator event, where I had the pleasure of meeting a smart young entrepreneur as part of a cohort that I was mentoring. The setting was a discussion on how to hire your initial team. And she expressed her view that it was best to ‘hire fast fire fast’ because the hectic pace of a startup doesn’t really give one the time and leisure to hire right! And that if we have made a mistake in hiring, then we really shouldn’t spend time living with it.
What made this even encounter more interesting is that I saw nods of agreement all around the room at this statement. Even though almost all of the entrepreneurs present there were first-time entrepreneurs.
I disagreed. Violently.
And I am coming from my experience of the last 8 years as an entrepreneur, and that of a corporate professional in man-management roles for 12 years prior to that, as a reason for my uncompromising stand.
So, for all of you who care, here’s some of the reasons why I feel – strongly – that ‘hire fast fire fast’ strategy, is a losing game in the long term.
Your hire is your responsibility
My key disagreement with a ‘hire fast fire fast’ philosophy is with the ‘hire fast’ aspect of it! Such speed and lack of care while hiring, places the onus of non-performance and non-fitment on the person who has been hired, whereas the responsibility for the quality of the hiring lies with the startup entrepreneur.
An entrepreneur, especially a startup entrepreneur is like the captain of a ship. Only he knows where the ship is headed and what it will take for the voyage to succeed. Any employee who is new to your vision and willing to join your start-up, is not really sure of what it will take to deliver or succeed in the context of your organisation. And therefore he cannot be expected to judge whether he is the right fit culturally or domain expertise wise for your organisation. That is your job.
Derailing a career is a crime
Most first employees take a huge risk when they join a startup. Most join when they believe strongly in the vision, reputation or drive of the start-up founder. And a ‘fire fast’ philosophy kicks such employees squarely in their stomach.
While the startup founder may have knowingly chosen the risky path to wealth and success, most employees have not. They depend on their monthly salary to keep their homes running, the EMIs paid and their families provided for. And yanking away such security, because you as a startup founder made a mistake in hiring, is a crime. A major one.
This is especially relevant at the time of a pandemic, when the future of the business looks uncertain. The first people to be laid off at this time are the not-so-right-hires…yes, the ones you hired fast and will now be firing fast.
Never underestimate the power of morale
The ‘hire fast fire fast’ philosophy undermines morale dramatically. A team‘s morale can make or break an organisation. Especially a startup where your only asset is people. And no successful start-up was ever built by a team of de-motivated and unhappy employees with job insecurity.
Most employees will not understand or appreciate the argument of non-performance of another employee. They will see it and rightly so, as a lack of leadership and guidance. And immediately get insecure about their own longevity within the organisation and start looking for other jobs. Trust me, the last thing you need at a startup, is employees looking for other jobs.
In conlusion…I can go on and on, but the heart of this entire question lies the ethicality of such behaviour from start-up founders.
Simply put, is it right to ‘hire fast fire fast’? Stop for a second and put yourself in the shoes of that particular employee. Think of how you would feel if something like this happened to you? And if the answer gives you an uncomfortable feeling in your stomach then I think you know what you have to do.