5 Tips for Turning a Bad Hire into Success

Discover the best tips for turning a bad hire into a success! Most of the recruits you take on have the ability to become good employees. Learn the best strategies to help them adjust, learn, grow and perform their best. 


Bad hire: A failure or a problem?

So you’ve mad a bad hire. It happens. According to Career Builder, 74% of employers say they've hired the wrong person for a position.


We know, it’s hard to find qualified candidates these days.

➡️This is why we created a great eBook: The Ultimate Guide for Finding Qualified Candidates in 2019! (Go ahead and download it. It's free. 🙂)

Talent acquisition is an art, it’s hard to make it errorless. However, the only way your bad hire is a failure is if you are forced to fire the individual for gross misconduct or for things such as taking too many sick days and turning up late. 

At companies like Assignment Geek Australia, gross misconduct means plagiarism or any sort of cheating, but new recruits are never fired because they are having a hard time

Most of the recruits you take on have the ability to become good employees.

How to turn a bad hire into a good employee?

Turning recruitment failures into success stories has different routes you may take, and the route you choose depends on the type of employee you are dealing with. 

Here are 5 tips that will help you turn your bad hire into a good employee:


1. Mold an employee

Molding employees involves training, understanding, and putting employees in roles that they excel at with people they enjoy being around. 

Identify the main problems and find solutions. Determine what part of the job is causing problems, and then train and retrain the individual on that part of the job. 

If one employee is a little slow on their feet, then give them jobs that require less running around. If an employee has dyslexia, then try them with counting and reading tasks, but have other tasks available in case they struggle.


Henry was hired on a government-backed scheme for long-time unemployed people and he had severe social anxiety. The managers tried him out on many aisles in the store but had trouble dealing with customers. Eventually, he was moved to nights (fewer customers) and completed the alcohol, chips, and soda aisles, because they are the least popular locations with customers. After a while, Henry became so comfortable in his role that he actually showed far more confidence while on his aisle both in terms of job performance and when dealing with employees and customers.

2. Exploit a talent

Exploiting an employee’s best abilities means letting him/her do what he/she is good at, and then training away the less desirable qualities such as poor punctuality, poor communication, poor hygiene, inability to get along with others, etc.

There are plenty of times when you drop employees in this role or that role, and suddenly your employee starts producing at a very high rate

However, lady luck only goes so far, and usually, these types of employees come with a host of problems such as a bad attitude, a sharp tongue, whiny behavior, etc. 

Your job is to smooth out these rough edges over time so that your employee fits comfortably into your business.


Roman and Gosia were excellent shelf stackers, especially with smaller and more fiddly items, but they spoke little English and were often isolated from the other staff. The solution was for the business owner to continue including the pair to help them make friends and to help them learn English. This included things such as the owner and his staff sitting with them at break times, and splitting up the pair on the aisles so that they had English-speaking partners to work with. 

3. Switch out roles

Many business owners and managers do not think that switching out roles is a feasible idea, but that is because they are not looking at the bigger picture. Most owners/managers have a position that needs filling and that is the only place available, but you will be surprised at how many people in your company would like a change. 

It doesn't seem obvious at first, but people driving the trucks may like a job finishing the windows in your factory. The people who are on accounts may relish the idea of working in HR for a while. 

Obviously, this sort of thing means a lot of upheaval and retraining, but not only do you find a good place for recruitment failure employee, but you also keep your other staff engaged by showing them that their current job doesn't have to be their “forever” job.


Young Josephine was doing well working on a PUP in the Amazon warehouse as a picker, but even though her work quality was high, her item counts were low. It turns out she was too polite to shift other people out of the way, and so was taking the long way around when picking. Despite numerous sessions trying to get her to be more assertive and aggressive, she became a counter instead. She still worked on the PUP, but she dealt with items that other people had no immediate use for. This meant her PUP training was not wasted, and she became a fully efficient and top-quality employee.

4. Give more one-on-one training

The most common reasons why managers and owners do not give more one-on-one training are two-fold. 

The first is because it is time-consuming, and managers/bosses consider their time to be too valuable. Secondly, one-on-one training often requires a long commitment because employees are not changed overnight. 

However, the point of one-on-one training should be to “learn how to teach.” The more one-on-one training you give, then the better you become at it. You soon learn the most common mistakes that new employees make, and you learn how to avoid them, and you learn new teaching techniques that make subsequent employee training sessions easier.


Executive Tilly spent so much time training new hires on the double-column machining center machine that not only had she learned all the most common mistakes, she had also put up posters detailing mistakes and warnings and had color-coded the device that she matched with a “How To” booklet that was glued to the machine interface. She even taught new hires how to listen to the input noises the device made so that the employees could hear if they had entered the right sequence. She called it the machine’s singing voice and there was an audible difference if the instructions were inputted incorrectly. She learned all this from spending time teaching new hires, so it had gotten to the point where she had severely streamlined the training process to make it more efficient.

5. Keep trying while the employee is trying 

Employees do not come to work wanting to do a bad job. If an employee is still trying, then stop making that employee feel bad for doing bad. 

The employee feels bad enough already because nobody wants to go to work every day and keep making the same mistakes. 

You are causing the failure if you are not giving the employee a reason to feel proud of his or her work.


Ashley understood the negative cycle that some new hires get into when they keep making mistakes. The employees know what to do, and they know they keep making mistakes, but they still keep making and sometimes their working speeds were slower because they were afraid of making mistakes. Ashley simply said, “Your only job is to learn something new today,” and “So, what did you learn new today.” After installing this mindset into employees, even the smallest step used to result in the employee feeling genuine progress and leaving work that day a little better than when they arrived. Even tiny new ideas had a big effect, such as the female employee who said, “Today I learned that if I cut out my labels before I walk the warehouse floor, then I can pop on a label and move on without the cutting-out distraction because the cutting process made me forget what point I was up to.” Even something small like that helped to improve her production speeds because she wasn’t stop-starting as much.

Conclusion: Most bad hires are a challenge, not a failure

Try to remember that your recruitment failures are only failures if your employee has a bad attitude and keeps doing things such as mouthing off, calling in sick, turning up late or simply has a bad work ethic. If your employee is failing but is still turning up and trying, then you do not have a failure...you have a challenge

Plus, human learning varies from person to person, but try to remember that the staff members who take the longest to train and who learn the slowest will often turn into the most efficient and productive employees in the long run because the “learning process” doesn't switch off after the first few weeks. 

Where other people learn the job quickly and then get on with it, people who learn slowly will progress very slowly at first, but over the course of months and years will end up becoming efficient and highly valued assets. Who knows, the initial bad hires might even become your employer brand ambassadors in the end! 

One final tip: Improve your recruitment process!

There are many things you can do to improve your recruitment process and avoid making bad hires in the future. 

Here are some simple tips that can help you ensure a great hire:

About the author

Mary Whitman is a Master of Arts based in Adelaide, South Australia. At her odd moments, she is taking full advantage of creative writing and blogging.

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