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How would your work life change if your organization had a no-fire policy?

Photo credit: Sasha W, Creative Commons/Flickr

Photo credit: Sasha W, Creative Commons/Flickr

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 programsis 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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About Kimberly Maul

Social Media and Editorial Intern at Idealist.org

7 Comments

  1. This is not a new idea, succesful models used to exist. Philadelphia electric had a no fire policy throughout its history up until the 1990s if not still.
    My father used to tell us about the extroadinary measures the company took and the measured benefit it received.

  2. Lois Backus

    I enjoyed reading about this practice and model it whenever possible. There are, however, two issues to keep in mind: 1) this practice is very difficult in a small nonprofit organization (fewer than 10 employees) due to the delicate balance between funding and the pressures of the work that exists in those organizations, and 2) “continuing to employ” someone who is “clearly a poor fit” until they find another job does not completely eliminate the emotional toll on the employee. Such a process requires an intense amount of support for that individual in an employee community where he/she is “clearly” identified as unsuccessful.

  3. Sara

    This exists to a certain extent in many settings. At the summer camp I work at, firing is not an option, unless a person breaks one of our very few set policies — drugs and alcohol, sexual relationships with campers, etc. Otherwise, we always work to better a person’s ability to fill the role given to him/her, instead of just firing someone for personality or ability points. That said, there are times where someone cannot perform the task at hand and thus puts minors at risk. In cases like these, firing can be necessary.

    In general, I think if companies looked at firing as a last resort in a truer sense than most do now, we would have a much more positive concept of “going to work” and people would feel stronger connections to the people around them; the world itself would be a better place.

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