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The Train Them or Replace Them Decision Grid

GettyImages-489208656“Should I put money into this person, or should I just replace them?” This question comes up weekly inside of our consulting company. Clients and readers send in their emails, texts, and social messages pleading for an answer. This topic is causing a lot of frustration and anxiety for business owners today.

The Pain Points

Finding team members in today’s market is tough! “The trades are dying” is heard far to often at your local and national conferences. The fact is, there is a shortage of willing and able people in trades compared to the demand.

This leads to the Rose-Colored Glasses Effect. Essentially, every candidate looks great in the presence of a shortage. This means you overlook what may be obvious flaws of the candidate. You hire the person based on a claim of technical ability, and never ask about his or her other skill sets. Important skill sets to ask about are customer service, communication, and selling.


The Problem Gets Worse, Because This Person is “Okay”

Now that you have hired this untested person, let’s call him Jim, and you are faced with a very major problem. He’s just mediocre. He’s not great or terrible, but just okay. Jim never makes any shocking mistakes, yet never has any major victories. He skates by on that thin line of being a low producer, but also being a low hassle.

So, what do you do with this guy?

He’s not really worth firing him, but he’s not really worth putting money into (or so you think.) This is where a Decision Grid Tool comes in handy. It will help you make the tough decision of “replace or train them” easier to make.


The Decision Grid

This grid will use two axis lines: The Can Axis and the Will Axis.

The Can Axis: This is the line that measures potential ability. I will keep the abilities to three major characteristics. You may need to add more characteristics dependent upon your position and culture. These characteristics are:

  1. General Intelligence – The person must be intelligent enough to do the job. This is critical.
  2. Social Skills – The person possesses the basic human interaction skills for the job.
  3. Specific Skills – The person has the ability to strengthen the technical and communication skills needed through training.

The Will Axis: This is the line that measure attitude and character. You may need to add more descriptors dependent upon your position and culture. These characteristics are:

  1. General Attitude – The natural state of the person’s attitude being positive.
  2. Work Ethic – The person’s willingness to be available and work through difficult projects. You can also think of this as persistence.
  3. Timeliness – Showing up on time with consistency. Timeliness is a highly valued character trait.

Using Can and Will as the axis line, you will move to Can’t and Won’t as opposite positions on the intersection line.

Take a look at the grid below for an example:


This grid will provide you with a simple matrix for deciding to “Replace or Train.”

The Can and Will Quadrant

If a person falls into the Can and Will quadrant, then you should train them. If you don’t, you are missing out on results. Now, if you are wondering “How do I know if they fall into that grid?”  Still unsure? I unpack that question in full detail in another article. My podcast also dives in to solving this problem.

The Can’t and Will Quadrant

This person is willing, but not yet able. Determine if they have the general intelligence and the current level of skills. This is the evaluate part of the grid. If they have the general intelligence, then train the skills. After training, evaluate the person for performance. Once you’ve done this step, you will either:

  1. Reinforce training.
  2. Move to a new position.
  3. Or dismiss as a team member.

The Can and Won’t Quadrant

This person is able, but not willing. Determine if they have their attitude can be positively affected by motivation. If so, then motivate. Once you’ve done this step, you will either:

  1. Reinforce training and motivation.
  2. Move to a new position. Perhaps a new leader will help bring forth motivation.
  3. Or dismiss as a team member.

The Can’t and Won’t Quadrant

If this person is at the bottom of the Can’t and Won’t quadrant, then just move on. I’m not saying the person can’t be turned around, but you don’t have to be the person to do it. Just move on, and let them work out their own life issues.

There’s your simple decision-making grid on whether or not to train or replace a team member. Use it well and start evaluating your team to better become invaluable to the company.


Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These group of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area!

Topics: Building a Business, Plumbing, hvac, Marketing, business culture, learning, knowledge, Management, team building, Leadership, Business Growth, Business Leadership, creative marketing, Branding, Customer Service

Posted by Todd Liles on Aug 17, 2018 9:00:00 AM
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