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How did it go when someone was transitioned out of your company due to lack of fit? If you have not had to do it yourself, you have most likely been in a situation where one of your colleagues had to transition someone out of your organization who was not a fit. This is a specific type of offboarding (i.e., the process used to transition an employee out of an organization). In some situations, offboarding due to lack of fit is uncomfortable for the leader and the ex-employee-to-be. In many cases, offboarding of this type is a negative parting of the ways that results in ill will between the parting employee and the employer the leader represents.

While transitioning someone out of a company may not be a pleasant task, it can be done in a professional way that makes it easier for all parties involved to handle. Steps can also be taken to make it less likely that someone will need to be offboarded in the future.

Send Off Like You Welcome

Most companies recognize how important it is to effectively onboard leaders and employees to help them feel connected to the organization and become productive in a timely manner. These companies have an onboarding process in place (or at least are establishing one). An effective onboarding process creates a better experience for the person going through it while it benefits the organization implementing it.

The same amount of preparation should be put into offboarding as there is put into onboarding. Unfortunately, this is not that common. The general objective of offboarding should align with that of onboarding—create a better experience for the person as it helps the organization. This is more likely to be the case if the transition is done fairly and with dignity so both sides can move on in a productive way. Examples of fairness and dignity include treating employees as professionals as they transition out, talking about them in a respectful manner, and providing outplacement services. Granted, there occasionally are some less-than-optimal partings that may need to involve attorneys. Nonetheless, using a fair and dignified offboarding approach as an essential part of a talent management process can substantially reduce the likelihood of these less-than-optimal partings. A fair and dignified approach can also help a company maintain a positive reputation in the market via reviews on Glassdoor and commentary in publications and social media.

Check Your Fit Test

One way to reduce the potential need to transition employees of out your company is take an honest look at how your organization determines whether someone is a fit for a job and the organization’s culture. Besides reviewing an individual’s resume, conducting standard interviews and checking references to verify employment and past responsibilities, what else is the company doing to gauge job and culture fit?

With behavior-based interviews, topgrading, tools for assessing individual characteristics, and methods for understanding organizational culture, there are plenty of resources that can be used to more effectively gauge fit on the front end. This in turn will reduce the need to offboard employees down the road. The key is whether enough effort has been put into determining the right process for your organization and then ensuring it is successfully used on a consistent basis.

A mis-hire not only creates the unpleasant task of having to transition someone out of the organization, it is also costly to the organization. Research conducted by Brad Smart has shown that the cost of a mis-hire is much more than the salary that was paid to the person who was not a fit. The cost is actually a multiple of the person’s base salary. More specifically, the cost of a mis-hire is:

  • 8 times base salary for a middle manager
  • 15 times base salary for a vice president
  • 27 times base salary for a senior executive

Using these figures, this means that a leader with a base salary of $100,000 who is not a fit could cost the organization well into the million-dollar range. This amount is likely to raise the eyebrow of anyone responsible for a P&L.

Make Patience Your Ally

What happens when leaders get anxious and feel they need to fill an open position immediately? They frequently shortcut the organization’s talent acquisition process (even if the organization has a robust one) and do a “warm body hire” (i.e., putting someone in the role who does not truly match the job or culture). Leaders do this because they feel that they need someone to take care of the responsibilities of the position in question sooner rather than later.

Although this enables these leaders to check the box regarding filling the position in the short term, it frequently creates more problems in the long run. In other words, this leads to the mis-hire costs previously mentioned and ultimately the need to transition this person out of the organization.

Therefore, the second way to reduce the potential need to offboard employees is to be patient. Succinctly stated, keep in mind the potential long-term and short-term impact to help ensure you take adequate time to find the person who is the best fit for the job and the culture.

Related insights:

Executive Role Transitions Are More than Onboarding

Are You Assessing or Guessing with Your Leaders?


Ryan Lahti is the founder and managing principal of OrgLeader, LLC. Stay up to date on Ryan’s STEM-based organization tweets here: @ryanlahti

(Photo: Exit 2, Flickr)