Getting Employees In The Right Seat


On the way into work this morning, the phrase popular in startup communities came on – “Hire slow. Fire fast.” While this may work in the startup world, I believe Jim Collins’ advice to “Get the right people on the bus in the right seats” is far better suited for an established company.  But how do you operationalize it?

Despite many organizations being like a huge double-decker city bus, employees often find themselves stuck in their department’s section. If things aren’t working out between the employee and manager (who in many cases acts as judge jury and executioner), the manager can eventually choose to kick the employee off the bus.  Now is it really always the employee? Maybe that employee just wasn’t in the right seat?   Who’s responsible for making sure employees are in the right seat on the bus?  I believe it should be HR.

HR + Management Partnership

In many organizations, managers are responsible for production and personnel.   How about we have managers and Human Resources work in partnership similar to that of an NFL Head Coach and General Manager. Human Resources should be responsible for all hiring (signings), lifting/shifting (trades), succession planning (depth chart), and firing (waives).  

Get in the right seat on the bus
Read also: What if HR reported to the Board of Directors?

Use Data to Find the Right Seat

Human Resources are the best equipped to ensure that those same people are in the right seats. Use data analytics and A.I. to compare the performance management data and individual development plan data with job descriptions of open roles, strengths and personality profiles.  This can align talent to identify the right seats for employees.

Mitigate Sucky Management

Let’s admit it, not all managers are top notch at management. Having the hiring and firing done in partnership with HR, it does a lot to mitigate the risk posed by having a manager who themselves aren’t top notch.  

Book Recommendation: “Work Rules!” to see how Google’s committee approach to firings works for them.

Managers are often removing employees and employees are often removing themselves from the bus prematurely.  Managers too often use the nuclear option (firing) to deal with poor performers. On the other side of the coin, employees leave managers instead of leaving companies.  More should be done to ensure employees don’t feel like their only option is to jump off the bus. HR can assist employees in finding seats where they can feel more engage and fulfilled.