The biggest asset of a business is its staff. With the right team, your business can focus on new business and growth. With the wrong team, you risk going nowhere. So what’s the secret to getting the right staff? And how do you get the best out of them? Tom Jordan, founder of creative digital agency Acknowledgement, gives us the low down.
1. Don’t just hire in your image
A business needs a range of skills and they need to compliment yours, not imitate. So make sure you don’t just hire people like you. If you’re great at the big picture, but poor on the details, hire a detail-oriented person.
2. Trust your instincts
Always listen to the opinions of others and see a candidate more than once. But if a candidate doesn’t feel right then trust your instincts and don’t hire them.
3. A diverse workplace is a richer workplace
You want to make sure that everyone is an expert in their respective subject area and passionate about what they do. But in the pursuit of this make sure you don’t hire an army of clones. An office where everyone dresses, reads and speaks the same will damage creativity. Embrace diversity and become a richer more interesting company as a result.
4. Beware of people who claim former glories at big companies
Be wary of people who claim great success in a previous role at a large company. Of course, they may be brilliant and exactly what you need but tread carefully. At larger companies, it is easy to be “part of the team” working on something, or to have a large supporting cast. Make sure they were responsible for what they claim they did. Ask probing, detailed questions and see if their story changes. Independently verify what they say if you can via their references.
5. Make sure they are hungry
If you are ambitious as a business, you want ambitious and hungry people working for you. Try and hire staff that have their most productive years in front of them rather than behind.
This doesn’t mean just hiring young people, but it means finding out what people’s motivations are. Do they want to improve themselves, learn things and push themselves? Or do they just want an easy life?
The ability versus experience line is a very hard balance to get right. I’ve personally found there is a sweet spot where you can hire people with the ability, but who may just be a little bit short on the experience. These people, as long as they are supported, can perform better as they feel they are progressing and are more fulfilled. You are also offering them a career rather than a job in this scenario.
6. Create a culture and create a team
If you create a culture, you can create a team. For example, if you create a culture where quality of work is valued above everything else then people will focus on quality. New joiners will realise that the way to impress and be respected by their peers is to produce high quality work.
7. Decide the key thing you want your new hires to do and then make sure you tell them
It may be something that's easy to miss, but employees are not mind readers. Decide the three most important things you want a new employee to do and tell them that this is how their performance will be judged. Be very clear; write it down and send it to them. However, choose the important criteria for success carefully and caveat them: a text book business mistake is to tell a new business person to “bring in more revenue” to then find out they have achieved just that but by discounting, ensuring that you’ve made no profit.
8. Don’t micro manage
If you hire good people, they should be left alone to get on with their job. Do have sensible check points, and do have reviews, but don’t breathe down employees' necks. Accept they may have a different style to you and encourage them to be autonomous. This is harder than it sounds, particularly in a small business where you might consider everything “your baby”. Letting go, as long as you have check points in place, will let you grow the business.
9. If it isn’t working out, deal with it quickly
For a variety of reasons, new staff may not work out. At the first sign of trouble, the best thing to do is to talk about it honestly with the member of staff with the aim of correcting the issue. This might sound obvious, but it’s amazing how easy it can be not to do to this and instead gossip to co-workers, make remarks in anger and let the issue go on for longer and longer.
Do not bury your head in the sand and simply hope the member of staff will “get better”. Without communication and help from you, they won’t.
Use the probationary period of a contract (usuallythree months) to communicate and iron out any issues. A chat can often sort the issue out, but if it doesn’t you can extend the probationary period or call it a day. If you communicate well and deal with it in a mature way there can be no hard feelings. I’ve had members of staff who have worked for me, left under mutual agreement within their probation period and are now valued clients or suppliers.
If you’ve used a recruitment agency, always negotiate to get a three month 100 percent cash rebate so you’ve not spent a fortune for someone who hasn’t worked out.
10. Staff may not be right forever
Like relationships or moving home, sometimes the magic ends and staff who have been perfect in the past may not be compatible with you anymore. This can be because the business changes (changing balance of work or the loss of certain legacy clients) or the staff may simply be becoming less and less effective. This can be an emotional, complex and legally hazardous area, but sometimes the best thing for the business may be to part company with long serving members of staff.
Before you act on your instincts in this area it is important to identify why you don’t feel a member of staff is right anymore and discuss it with an HR consultant. They will help you try and correct the issue, and if that proves impossible, advise you how to part company with the employee in a way that is as least disruptive as possible for both parties.