Small Businesses: Hire and Keep the Best Employees
Good help is always hard to find. At least that’s what we’ve been told. However, I don’t think this is necessarily true. I believe 99% of individuals go to work to do a good job. But are we as business owners and managers giving them the tools they need to truly succeed? Are we doing everything we can to make sure the employee’s skills match the job they’ve been hired to do?
Here are some quick ideas that go a long way in helping you finding the right person to fill a position, and to keep that person employed and engaged at your small business. (For more, see: Choosing a Retirement Plan for Your Small Business.)
Pre-Hire: Go Beyond the Resume
Resumes are important when evaluating candidates for employment. You want to find people with the right kind of experience and skills that will help your organization, but these shouldn’t be the only qualities you look for on resumes.
Attitude and a willingness to learn also should be high on the priority list of traits that employers should look for in potential employees. Smart people can gain expertise and master nearly any skill, but it’s very hard to change a poor attitude. Also, the fewer preconceived notions an employee has coming in to your organization, the more ready and willing they will be to adapt to the systems and programs at your firm.
During Hiring: Test, Test, Test
I believe in using both analytical and soft-skill testing during the hiring process. Companies like Kolbe can help match personalities and learning styles with specific types of jobs or occupations. If problem solving is part of the job description, for instance, ask questions in the interview that represent what the job will be like.
Also, don’t make the assumption that everyone knows how to use a computer – test for it. Skill, competency and comfort level with technology can vary widely among different individuals. (For more, see: A Defined Benefit Plan for Small Business Owners.)
Post-Hire: Train, Train, Train
Onboarding is a familiar process for new employees, but the best companies go beyond the basic orientation program. They offer continuing opportunities for employees to increase their skill sets.
Continuous training benefits employees by adding responsibilities and showing a clear path of promotion in the organization. Employers benefit too, as it leads to greater efficiency by developing skilled and capable employees. Training should be part of the 40-hour work week. Cultivating a skilled and engaged workforce is an expensive process, especially for the small business owner. Any time spent upfront and ongoing in training skilled employees greatly increases the likelihood of success.
Pay Your People Well, but Measure
Successful business owners understand the value of taking care of their best people. A+ employees should be paid like A++ employees. It doesn’t have to be all about money – flexibility of schedule can also be a significant reward for top performing employees, especially those you want to keep.
The fear from all business owners is paying a B-grade employee with an A+ level salary. How can you differentiate top performers from average ones? You need to have measurements for each job, both quantitative and qualitative. Then you need to review performance with employees consistently, so they understand what is expected on the job and how their salary is linked to job performance and business success. (For more, see: Work at a Startup? Here’s How to Plan Your Finances.)
Let Them Know How They’re Doing
Regular reviews are important, but it is also important to give praise and constructive criticism at non-scheduled times. For example, when an employee completes a major milestone for the company, show your appreciation directly and publicly. Let everyone in your organization see the accomplishment.
In his book “Drive” author Daniel Pink discusses in depth how recognition and appreciation apply more towards company loyalty than actual compensation.
Outline a Clear Vision for Their Future
This can happen during training, but it can also be important for employees to know when they are joining your team. The more ambitious candidates will want to know where your company can take them in their future.
If you run a small business, do employees have the opportunity to earn equity? If your firm is getting larger, do you offer a track for promotions, leadership opportunities or management?
Pulling it All Together
Hire slow, fire fast. Business owners and managers hear this all of the time, yet it remains the best advice for growing and managing your business team. A hiring process that lasts for at least a year can go a long way toward helping you build a skilled and engaged staff that can increase your probability of business success. (For more, see: Starting a Business? Embrace the Discomfort.)