Imagine if your organization never fired people, and instead viewed employees as family members, working to ensure that they are well supported, regardless of whether they stay or leave. NextJump—a company that provides internet-based rewards and loyalty programs—is doing just that with a no-fire policy.
According to CEO Charlie Kim, hiring someone is a life-long relationship. Because of this, not only do they strive to place people in their ideal jobs within the company, but they also actively support struggling employees. This extends beyond professional development and work-plans; when an employee is clearly a poor fit, instead of firing them, NextJump continues to employ them until the employee finds a new job. The reason for this approach is simple, according to Kim: firing hurts people. He notes,
"I always thought we were a company with a strong focus on people, and it was for that reason that I advocated “fast firing” — if you knew someone wasn’t working out, don’t prolong the agony. Allowing bad behavior to perpetuate is one of the worst things you can do for team performance. [But] I was talking with Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller at Massive, a gathering organized by Simon Sinek, and Bob challenged me on this point and asked me how I’d like my son to be fired by someone in the future. That floored me. Being fired is a highly traumatic emotional event. It’s the equivalent of being told 'you are no good.'”
NextJump improved their employee training and evaluation practices to work with this new directive, and formed peer-counseling groups that work together to talk through issues, challenges, and goals. As a result, turnover dropped to 0% and, according to Kim, “the percentage of employees who said they ‘love,’ not like, not tolerate, but LOVE their jobs went from 20% to 90%.” Additionally, during performance reviews, employees are more honest as they do not fear being fired. There is a stronger level trust.
Career development facilitator Michele Martin also highlighted this practice, stating that this kind of policy can encourage better employee performance, “When employees feel the deeper commitment from the company to their professional well-being, they can focus on what really matters, rather than on the protective behaviors a more uncertain work environment tends to engender.”
Is this something that is feasible for nonprofit organizations, which may not have the budget to keep an employee who is struggling to find his or her place? Or should nonprofits be seen as leaders in helping find their place in the sector? How would your experiences be different if this policy was more prevalent?
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by Kimberly Maul