Now, to be clear, I don’t think a three-month contract is necessarily the best solution. We’re open to change, and we may find a better approach in the future. The takeaway is not to have a contract – it’s to talk about the risk up front.
Communicate expectations clearly and regularly.
After you hire someone, spend time crafting a three-month plan with them. Share what you expect them to accomplish and how you will measure their performance. If you don’t know all the specifics, then share your general expectations about performance and values. Have weekly one-on-ones (and daily check-ins in the first week or two) to share feedback and to give them time to ask questions. Your job is to help the new employee be successful, so early feedback is critical.
At Magoosh, we’re now better at this than we used to be. We now try to do the following:
- Provide specific culture and competency feedback during weekly one-on-ones
- Regularly (every two weeks or so) communicate how likely new employees are to receive a full-time offer
- Solicit feedback from new employees about their experience at Magoosh and what we can do to help them succeed
We make full-time offers anytime after the first month. If we don’t make one, we try to share expectations and progress with the employee. And as long as the employee makes a good-faith effort, we guarantee that we’ll work with them throughout the entire three-month period.
Offer a reasonable and well-defined severance.
For any number of reasons, things may not work out. But remember, when you fire someone, it’s your fault. If you had a better hiring process, you could have identified that this person wasn’t well-suited for the role or the company. Now the employee has to find another job, which takes time. We took inspiration fromÂ Rand Fishkin of Moz and offered one month of severance to anyone we don’t keep after the contract period (assuming there were no egregious behavior issues). Think of severance as a “hiring penaltyâ€: You pay it because you didn’t invest enough time in the hiring process, and it’s your incentive to make the hiring process better.
Here is theÂ Google DocÂ we send to all candidates during the hiring process, outlining how we approach the three-month contract.
In the fast-paced startup culture, where every day matters, it’s easy for founders to hire and fire quickly. However, step back and evaluate the consequences of those actions. The people you hire are not disposable resources. Sometimes a relationship between an employee and a company doesn’t work out, and that’s OK. Let them go, but do so humanely and improve your hiring process for the next hire.
Bhavin Parikh is CEO and co-founder of Magoosh, a company that creates web and mobile apps to help students prepare for standardized tests such as the GRE, GMAT, SAT, and TOEFL. He loves advising startups on growing their ideas and building great cultures.
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