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Confidentially Speaking

Timing is the key to confidentially replacing an under performing employee, with an emphasis on confidentially. Depending on the level of management you are replacing, the interview process may take 30 to 90 days. Often this process will take place while the current employee is being challenged to improve during a probationary period.

Orchestrating a confidential search is only necessary if you want to minimize the time the laundry operation is without the employee you are replacing. Perhaps you have a internal candidate that could `grow' into the position. Consider skipping the confidential search and make this individual the `interim substitute' with the following understanding you will interview external candidates during the first 90 days to provide you with a backup option should the interim manager determine they either do not like the new level of responsibility or are not quite ready for it.

On the other hand, a public interview process for a potential replacement should not be conducted during the under performing current employee's tenure as you will adversely affect his / her morale and their direct reports. For that reason it is difficult to even interview internal candidates while the current manager is still in place.

Getting The Word Out, But How?
A carefully worded blind ad may bring in sufficient response, but what if it does not? You also have to allow for the turnaround time of the local newspaper or monthly trade magazine receiving the response, batching and forwarding it to you. Recruiting firms routinely handle confidential searches, though some are more expensive than others, and vary in their type and length of guarantees. Your relationship with vendor reps may result in quietly generating a few referrals, but be careful, "loose lips sink ships."

Posting a position on an Internet job bulletin board may backfire if the current employee is personally browsing at home for a similar position within the industry. Larger multi-plant organizations have the ability to orchestrate a confidential search, but are only as good as their designated recruiting manager.

Pre-screening Discretely
A telephone interview needs to be professionally candid. Let the candidate know up front that you have a confidential opening and your current manager is being evaluated through a probationary period. Use the telephone interview to gauge the candidate's strengths in relation to the shortcomings possessed by your employee.
When And Where
In our small close-knit industry it can be difficult to conduct an interview at the plant, especially when a plant tour can be a key element in filling a plant manager or chief engineer position. You can interview the candidate after hours; unfortunately the candidate will not see the production workforce in action. Consider using a camcorder and putting together an amateur action video of the production department, along with any other appropriate departments. Keep the video in the plant archives and make it available for the candidate to view if they visit the plant in off hours.

Some general managers will conduct the plant visit during the workday and simply refer to the candidate as a vendor rep. I personally encourage managers to minimize any `stories' - sometimes you have to tell two stories to cover up the one you just told.

Lone Ranger
Do you go it alone or do you confide in anyone else? If the poor performer is a direct report then confide in your immediate supervisor he / she can offer advice regarding the search or may know of other internal candidates. If you have an HR manager as a direct report or rely on a regional / corporate HR manager then ideally they should be in concert with you.

Concluding The Search
Once you have identified your first choice then revisit the timing sequence. Is your under performing manager still under performing? Will the candidate need to give two weeks notice to their employer. Is there a possibility they may receive a counter offer, and if so, how would they respond? Does your organization have another plant where the new hire could confidentially train until they are ready to come into your laundry operation? When the timing details are worked out then you should be ready to make a formal offer.

Craig Lloyd represents, a management search firm specializing in the industrial / institutional laundry industry.  He holds a degree in Industrial Relations from Rider University and has been a Certified Personnel Consultant since 1979. 

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

A Gruesome Laundry Surprise

PHOENIX, Ariz. — A body in a bin was discovered by employees at a Sodexo commercial laundry facility. The body arrived on a delivery truck from medical facilities in Tucson. Team members who were unloading the bins first noticed blood on the sheets then discovered the body in one of the bins. The man, a transient, had previously slept in the laundry-bag area near the Tucson medical facility. It is believed that the man either died from a medical condition or was suffocated by the plastic bags. The body showed no signs of trauma or foul play.