How You Answer This Question Will Reveal If It’s Time to Fire an Employee, According to Netflix’s Former Head of HR
Leaders know when it’s time to let someone go. They do it with honesty and compassion.
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Patty McCord is one of the most well-known names in human resources. You might even call her an HR celebrity.
The 125-slide Netflix culture deck that went viral a few years back? McCord was behind that. She is the former chief talent officer at Netflix. Working alongside Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, McCord built and cultivated company culture that attracted top performers, treated employees like adults, and made the company one of the most desirable places to work in Silicon Valley.
Work is not your family. It's a team.
An HR practioner's job is tough. Getting in at the ground level to define a company's culture sounds like a fun job, but it also means you'll need to fire people.
On a recent episode of the podcast Without Fail, McCord discusses this necessary part of the job. The title of the episode? How to Fire People.
She debunks the myth of treating your work as if it's a family. Because you can't fire people from your family. You can, however, fire people from a team if they're not performing anymore -- even if they were once one of your star players.
At one point during a difficult time for Netflix, McCord had to let a third of the company go. She had to cut a third of the team. Even when Netflix was experiencing massive growth, she had to fire people.
1 question that reveals if it's time to cut someone from the team.
McCord recommends you ask this question: If this person walked in the door and interviewed for the job they're doing now, would you hire them? Knowing what you know about their performance, would they still be qualified?
Companies evolve. Especially high-growth ones. Their needs change and they demand different skills of their workforce.
You may have hired an employee to do a certain kind of job. They may have done that job very well. But the exact job requirements may have changed. It may require a different skill set or expertise. Was your employee able to evolve and fill those gaps?
Skip the performance improvement plan. Just let them go.
It might not even be the person's fault that they're no longer qualified for the job. So you could just put them on probation, giving them the opportunity to improve and keep their job.
McCord came from a traditional HR background, where 90-day performance improvement plans were the norm. In the podcast, she describes the process as dishonest and painful for both parties. Either the person was underperforming, or was desperately trying to figure out how to do a job they didn't know how to do.
Every time, she thought to herself: "Why am I lying to this person? We both know this is a game. It's so cruel. This is crueler than saying goodbye."
That's why she began to let people go as soon as she could tell they were no longer suited for the job -- and always with a check for three month's pay. Instead of wasting three months of everyone's time, McCord would send them off to look for a new job that was better suited for their expertise.