Your New Hires Are Incompentent


Yes, that means yours.  Don’t believe me?  Listen up.

When you go looking for talent, do you want someone who has worked to develop themselves, or someone who managed to stay in the same job, at the same level, for years? Do you want someone who aspires to be more, or someone who works to not be noticed?  Are you searching for your replacement, or someone who can just avoid being fired for the next ten years?

The answer to all of those, hopefully, is the first choice.  And those are the kinds of people who said goodbye to their comfort zone a long time ago.  They dive headfirst into new challenges and opportunities, and they seek out roles that advance their career in some way.  We love those people.

The problem is that means those people are always in jobs that don’t match up their current skill set.  And that’s OK, right?  We want stretch assignments, we work to develop people, and we strive to help people achieve more.  But to develop and stretch, you have to do new things.  And “new,” by definition, means something you haven’t done before.  And if you haven’t done it, then you aren’t “competent” at it.  That’s the deal.

Training pros will tell you there are four stages of development.

  • Unconsciously Incompetent:  You don’t know yet what you don’t know
  • Consciously Incompetent: You know what you don’t know
  • Consciously Competent: You’ve got it figured out, but still requires effort to perform
  • Unconsciously Competent: You’ve got it locked down, and don’t even have to think much about it

How long does it take to move through the stages?  Depends on the person, the task and the training.  But it takes some amount of time, and everyone generally starts from step one.  (If you aren’t, it’s not really all that new, is it?)

Those employees who we are trying to draft onto our team?  They get to start at stage one when they join your team.  Not with everything, but at least some things.  New systems, new culture, new relationships, new route to work, new kinds of pens.  Lots of change, and they are incompetent at dealing with each and every bit of it.  Oh, they’ll catch on.  But it will take some non-zero amount of time.

What can you do about it?  Support them, give them time to transition, send them positive feedback, and whatever learning opportunities you can find.  They’ll come around.

(By the way, if you happen to be one of those people transitioning, don’t fret.  That adjustment you are going through is normal.  Your new team wanted you for a reason.  Don’t be too hard on yourself, but don’t dally when it comes to getting on track.  You’ll be fine!)


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