Hire Slow And Overtrain

I think any business owner or someone in a management role will read the mantra “Hire Slow And Overtrain” and nod in agreement. How many of us actually follow these guidelines though? The problem is that most people in the position to hire are already too busy by the time they need that person, so you tend to hire the first person that doesn’t seem nuts and then give them 3 hours of training on day 1, followed a month later with a reprimand since they clearly can’t handle the job. So is this in any way the efficient approach?

My approach to creating and maintaining a department has always been to create a full system which accounts for all tasks and procedures and also adds accountability. This enables the position to be simplified and defined by the system that is in place. The point of this is that you can hire a less skilled person to operate within a system, not unlike the person in charge of fries at McDonald’s, who doesn’t need to know all about the perfect way to make french fries. The system handles the bulk of the critical thinking, so you don’t have to hire an expert with years of experience for every department or team you establish. This concept was first introduced to me in The E-Myth Revisited and ever since I’ve been trying to see how far I could take it.

The problem I have then is that I spend so much time creating the system that by the time I’m through I’m not devoting enough time to training the people operating within it. E-commerce is not the same as frying french fries at McDonald’s, so there is always a need for exceptional people, from the warehouse to the marketing department. The question is when does it become more efficient to focus on hiring and training instead of tweaking the system?

I’d say in terms of priority up until lately I’ve had an 80/20 approach to this, meaning I’d spend 80% of my time defining a system and 20% finding people and training them. I think I need to adjust this to 60/40. I have found that even with the simplest of systems a bad hire can always find a way to screw it up, and that is not the fault of the hire, but yours for either not training well, or making the mistake of hiring them in the first place, because you didn’t take the time to see if they’d be a good fit. People deserve better than that and as people in the position to hire and fire we need to take that responsibility seriously.

Additionally, do you really want to spend your day surrounded by low octane people that don’t have a clue what’s going on and just press the buttons they are told? Or do you want people that are excited and engaged in what they are doing? They are out there! We just need to take the time to find them, and make sure they are trained well.

This is basically a pep talk to myself, but I thought it might be a useful reminder to readers. What’s been your approach to this? Anyone out there with the opposite problem of hiring without systems in place? Does anyone feel they’ve found the right balance between systems and people? Am I on the right track with my 60/40 theory? Let me know in the comments!


  • Jose Ignacio

    In my opinion the key for a job well done by anyone is focus. Don’t treat people like machines with simple in out. People need to feel creative to stay engaged. So the key is to give them a single problem and tell them to solve it themselves. What happens next is that they create the system with the tools you have. After that you check to see if their system is what you want. Most of the time they are of. But usually not too bad so you just rectify. They try again and repeat the cycle. If they have no clue time to find someone else. My motto is hire slowly but fire them fast. It needs to be clear to them that this is a trial. Cheers!

    • http://marketplacepartner.com/ Tom Fougerousse

      Hey Jose – Good to hear from you! I think you have the right idea here and I know you speak from experience. Thanks for the comment!