If the current economic situation has a silver lining, it’s that there are a lot of talented people looking for work. But hiring is an expensive undertaking — especially if the hire doesn’t work out.

As Dave Mattson, CEO of Sandler Systems, a sales training and consultancy business, points out, a year of training a new employee can cost well over double that employee’s salary. Mattson, who shares the Sandler process at various trade shows, has worked on developing a system called “on-boarding.”

Basically, an on-boarding system measures whether new hires meet expectations and task deadlines, which can be set in small time increments. Without an on-boarding process, you may not know for several months whether an employee is a good match.

Kyle T. Webster

All Set Up

The first step: Track a particular job so you have an understanding of the requirements and how long it takes for someone to be self-sufficient in that position. At Sandler Systems, Mattson and his colleagues found it took three months for new sales staff to be profitable. They then broke the process down into 30-day segments, though Mattson says he prefers weekly segments: “Ask yourself: What would [an employee] need to know to become an expert after the first week? The second week? etc.”

Make sure that you have the information necessary to train a new hire. Sandler has a week-by-week playbook for each position. “It’s a common mistake to assume people are following the process,” Mattson says. “If they don’t meet the requirements [early on], there could be a problem with the employee, or they don’t have the tools to succeed, or perhaps the job description isn’t accurate.”

Let the employee demonstrate that he or she can do the job. Then, having given an employee the tools for the position, take a 90-day temperature. But in the end, “don’t lose management courage,” Mattson says. If you must let someone go, don’t wait.