Hire to Fire

“Hire to Fire” – the power of metrics
Hello colleagues and fellow Lean Six Sigma practitioners, I hope you find the below analysis enjoyable and insightful.
June 2, 2021 Inc. published an article (link) highlighting a problem occurring at Amazon, specifically a practice by managers called “Hire to Fire”. Turns out some managers at Amazon will hire people who they fully intend to fire in the coming months. This seems irrational given the cost and effort of onboarding a new employee…so what is going on here?
This is another case study of metrics driving dysfunctional behavior. The situation is this: In many corporations there is an expectation of annual turnover, this makes sense, some people change jobs, retire, or are just not the right fit. Corporations track this number and over time a pattern emerges. This would be the correct use of this metric, a lagging, informative metric that HR executives keep an eye on…no big deal.
So what happened? The “annual turnover” metric is shown to managers and they are given targets (expectations) for a certain percentage of employee turnover. As an Amazon manager you are expected to fire X number of employees every year and your career (in part) depends on you meeting those expectations. What do you do if you have an awesome team and great employees? Who do you fire? The answer…no one! You hire a few outsiders then fire them at year end so your “turnover” metric looks good while keeping your team intact. Trust me, you would do the same.
Do not blame the managers for this wasteful and unethical practice, the blame lies with the executive who placed a managerial expectation on an otherwise informative metric. I’ll keep watch to see if any executives are disciplined, or will some managers be forced to take the fall.
Remember Lean Six Sigma is based on the foundation of respect for people, the misuse of metrics is one way to disrespect the workforce.
Stay cool, Erik
“Standards should not be forced down from above but rather set by the production workers themselves.”