Rehire Every Employee, Every Day

Two years ago my partner and I bought three small (but expensive) olive trees for our roof terrace. We carefully planted the trees in very big (and even more expensive) steel bowls, and we gave them the best soil and nutrients our money could buy.

Each of the bloody trees died within a year.

As a gardener, you need to make sure that plants and trees you select for a garden match the environment they need to grow in. It turned out our olive trees (and the steel bowls we planted them in) were not able to cope with the extensive rain showers in our country. The trees simply drowned.

In his book Good to Great Jim Collins listed The Right People First as one of the main principles for growing great companies. Not every tree is a good match for a roof terrace in Holland. And not every person is a good match for your business environment. When selecting people for your organization you carefully need to pick the right ones. Giving people the best office space, proper tools, cool projects, and a weekly massage, is not enough. If they're not the right people the environment will drown them. And when their performance is bad, it doesn't mean they are bad employees. It means the match just didn't work out, and they are probably better off elsewhere.

But what if the match was good, and the environment changes?

What if there's a financial crisis, and the business environment changes dramatically? What if customers suddenly require small economical cars, instead of big expensive ones? What if customers suddenly require small projects with fixed price contracts, instead of big projects on a time/material basis? What if customers reduce the size of the carrot, while enlarging the size of the stick? When the business changes, the organization needs to change, and the people in it too.

And some people might not be able to…

The principle of selecting the right people already gets sufficient attention in your recruitment efforts. Right? But have you also implemented the principle of retaining the right people? The people you hired yesterday, may not be the ones you would hire today. Yes, you have to educate and train them, and give them the opportunity to change. But that might not be enough when trying to match people with a changed business environment. As a manager, you must think as if you are rehiring every employee, every day.

Growing a business means the right people first, and the right people next.


Re-organizing teams and departments, changing accountability, and changing job descriptions, will have an effect on employees. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Some people can decide to leave the organization, making room for others with a better match. Other people may have to be fired, when they don't change and don't leave. Performance that was OK yesterday, may not be acceptable tomorrow. It is even possible that, while firing some people, you have to hire others, only because they offer a better match in the new environment. (And that won't make it any easier for the ones that are leaving…)

Did I ever tell you management is fun?

I never liked management. And I never liked gardening. The big expensive steel bowls on our roof terrace are now empty. Some climate reports on global warming say that our country will have more of a Mediterranean climate in the near future. Environmental change is on the way. I'm looking forward to it. One day we will buy ourselves three new olive trees.

(pictures by C'est moi and coda)

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