Fortuitous Self Selection
The problems in hiring generally start well before the hiring effort ever actually begins, and this is actually something of a vicious circle. Problems in the workforce aren’t addressed consistently and employers are confronted with the problem of an employee leaving suddenly. This leads to difficulties in hiring because owners try to hire a replacement too quickly.
Many business owners rely on fortuitous self selection, where they simply wait for employees to resign and then hope that they can make improvements behind that. When somebody says “I just made some cuts” a little probing often elicits the information that what this really means is simply that some people left. The next question, obviously, is “were they people you wanted to leave?” This often gets a less enthusiastic reception.
There two key problems with relying on fortuitous self selection. First and foremost, the people who leave tend to be the people who have energy and upside, and the people who stay tend to be the people who are comfortable where they are and feel no need to go somewhere where they will be challenged. Secondly, it means that people are leaving on their timetable rather than yours, and hiring becomes a fire drill.
What happens in practice is that when an employee resigns a panic sets in that simply puts more pressure on existing resources and seldom produces the right result. This is never a good thing. You slam an ad on Craig’s List and hire the first person that applies. You don’t ask them the right questions, and the whole approach is a classic example of “Ready, Fire, Aim”.
The reaction is a lot like that of people who get out of a long term relationship and remarry on the rebound, and "panic" hiring can be a lot like that. You have a position and you have to fill it and you don't take a step back and take a good long look at what you really need.
There are often good arguments for taking a step back and not automatically replacing an employee who resigns. Leave the job open for 30 days and see whether you can exist without it, whether the existing employees can fill the void and take up the slack.
If you rely upon people leaving to create movement in your workforce then you are not managing but reacting, and deserve the grief that this will cause you as you continue to do it. The vast majority of small business owners have no idea about how to approach this issue, and they tend to react by filling the holes when they appear rather than proactively thinking about who should stay and who should go in making that happen.
The productivity cost of putting up with mediocrity is enormous. Imagine what would happen if you could raise the productivity of your workforce by just 10%? For many businesses, this may be the difference between success and failure and putting up with mediocrity and failing to hold employees accountable has huge costs and issues that can spell the death of many businesses.
The way to avoid fortuitous self-selection is to take a proactive approach to evaluating your employees. Retake the initiative and get rid of poor performers on your timetable rather than waiting for them to make the move and cause you an issue.