Recruiting is often the first major task that a growing company has to confront, and getting it right can be a daunting task. Coming back to your core business strategy and working out your skills needs is the essential first step.
You need to sit down and think about the role they want the employee to fill, according to Advice Centre Consulting’s David Fox.
“The most important thing, and something that is really not done well, is to get clarity around what the role is,” he states. “It’s not only the tasks involved in the role, but also what the role needs to achieve and what the measurements of success are.”
Randstad HR director Tiffany Quinlan argues that thinking strategically about hires in context of your own strengths and weaknesses is a wise move.
“You need to be self-aware about where you’re lacking,” she says. “A new hire should complement you, not do what you already do – hiring clones doesn’t really work.”
Skills might pay the bills – but it’s not the only thing you should worry about. Personality goes a long way too. Quinlan recommends carrying out psychometric or personality testing.
“A personality profile typically shows what an interviewee’s default behavior is likely to be. That’s the stuff you need to know; that’s what people revert back to when they’re put under pressure.
The mortgage industry can be a high-stress environment; you want to make sure that what you’re seeing is what you’re getting, and it’s actually more important in a small organization than a big.”
Finally, don’t ignore what’s right under your nose, especially if you already employ people.
“Pay attention to people you have: push them, give them opportunity, and give feedback,” says Jim Sharpe, Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School’s Entrepreneurial Management Unit. “Keep a list of contacts you meet that might fit in your organisation: you are the company’s greatest recruiter. You will make mistakes, so move quickly to let a new hire go if it is not working.”
One particular bugbear for smaller firms is how to provide employees with opportunities for career progression. Unlike large firms, the scope for internal promotion can be more limited, with role expansion reliant on company growth or employees “making a role their own”. The latter can be risky, especially if an employee wants to develop their job in a direction that may not be in line with your strategic aims.
Fox recommends sketching out scope for development within the role as part of the initial creation of the job description, as well as employing someone who is able to move into a more senior position.
Quinlan suggests sitting down with your employee and finding out their goals for the year can be a good way of providing career development.
Staff incentives – financial and non-financial – are a common feature of most employee packages.
“The modern workforce is looking for flexibility and recognition. We empower our managers throughout the organization to have the power to give employees time off if they’ve outperformed. They’re high-performing individuals who will make that time up anyway.”
Loyalty leave, birthday and anniversary leave are all other low-cost incentive options that Quinlan suggests – but in her view there’s nothing better than the spontaneous day off for rewarding excellent performance.
Jim Sharpe, Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School’s Entrepreneurial Management Unit, agrees that spontaneity goes a long way.
“Find opportunities to celebrate and recognize employees in a spontaneous way; food always works well, even better when food is shared with everyone pitching in,” he says. “Money seldom is the primary motivator for people, but being thanked and appreciated goes a long way. Single out great examples, spread the praise and do it at all levels.”
Eventually, there will come a point where employees move on – whether to move to another job or set up their own business. Ideally, you’ll have some sense of if and when this is likely to happen, if you’re regularly discussing career development with your staff – but more often than not it will come out of the blue.
Therefore, you should make sure that you have a plan in place if a staff member leaves – whether that’s recruiting a successor, an internal promotion or just reallocating duties. Of course, there will also be situations where an employee is let go – whether that’s being fired or redundancy. Regardless of the reasons, it’s essential to treat everyone equally.
“You have to park your emotional issues and make sure that person leaves with dignity,” she says. “They’ll tell 10 people if they’ve had a good ‘leaving experience’ – and 25 if they’ve had a bad one. It’s important to send a message to other employees that they will be treated with dignity if they leave.”
Whether it’s an email or goodbye drinks, make sure the departure process is the same.
Why all the fuss over graciousness? Well, it’s because the ‘boomerang effect’ is powerful.
“We have a Boomerang Club here at Randstad – those people who left, went elsewhere then came back,” laughs Quinlan. “Those leavers can return, months and years later – and can be valuable.”