Don Kermath

Have you ever dated the wrong person? You likely dated that person longer than either of you wished. What if you had set that person free after the first five dates? You probably knew it wasn’t going to work out after the first date. Wouldn’t it have saved you money, heartache, and time? Exactly. That’s why I propose adopting a five-workday probation period for all new hospitality employees. You will save money on training, it’s the most ethical thing to do, and you can get back to work immediately finding the right employee.

You’re going to spend about $2,500 in the United States to train your hourly hospitality employee, initially. Most of that is labor cost for the new employee. A $12/hour employee working 30 hour work weeks will cost a business $414 a week (pay + taxes). Let’s negate recruiting costs and trainer costs. The recruiting cost is the same for all employees and the trainer is usually working with the trainee doing on-the-job tasks, so it’s not a total loss of productivity. If at the end of the week you evaluate and set free an incompetent employee you’ll save $2,086 over waiting for the employee to complete the training. Look at that; with just this one piece of advice, you can save $2,086 per employee who will either quit or be fired shortly after completing training. If you lose 10 unworthy employees per quarter, you can save $20,860 by setting them free in the first five days.

Is it ethical and legal to terminate an employee after five days? Consult legal counsel in your jurisdiction to determine if this is legal, but in most cases, as long as you are not violating discrimination laws, it is legal. Is it ethical? Let’s recognize that not all jobs are for all people. Hospitality jobs are especially rigorous. The hours, the guests, and the work are all demanding. It takes a special person. Also, if the job is not a fit, neither the employee nor the employer are happy. Why should you or the employee prolong the dissatisfaction longer than five days? What is the point of waiting the 30, 60, or 90 days of the traditional probation periods? You know they don’t fit. They know they don’t fit. It is a kindness to set them free to seek satisfying employment elsewhere.

Why do hospitality managers hang on to dead weight employees? There are two main reasons. First, they don’t have any bench strength – no one waiting to fill that position. The solution is to be in a constant state of hiring. When a superstar walks in your door you better hire them – available position or not. Put their start date two weeks into the future. You’ll have an opening by then, I promise. Second, the manager feels it’s an act of compassion to give the new recruit a million chances. How’s that working for you? Set the trainee free in five days and take control of your position vacancies instead of frantically trying to fill holes left when they quit without notice.

Finally, you maximize your staff’s productivity by setting free an incompetent employee the first week. First, your trainer can either get back to normal duties or start training a worthy candidate. The quicker you bring on the next candidate, the faster you can have a productive employee on the crew. Second, your top performers won’t have to work with an incompetent employee for the next 90 days before you decide to terminate their employment or they find another job and leave. Top performers will be dissatisfied working with slackers. You’ll lose them over time if you don’t give them competent people to assist with the workload.

This sounds crazy on the surface – fire your new employee in five days if they are not a fit. It’s going to increase your turnover rate – unless you don’t include these false starts in your data. You could call these first five days a paid working interview if you have heartburn with high turnover rates. Let’s face the facts, employees are not sticking around no matter what you do. You will actually see a dramatic decline in real turnover. The new employees that survive the first five days will stay longer and your top performers will be ecstatic that you are giving them productive co-workers who have their back. Set them free in five days and everyone will be glad you did.

Do you think this would work for you? Let me know in the comments