As a business owner, you have a long list of critical items that need your attention to ensure your success. I would argue that one of the most important things on that list – if not the most important thing – is your people. Whether you have one employee or 100 employees, finding the right talent and keeping them engaged and motivated will have an enormous impact on the success of your business. And when I talk with business owners like you, it’s one of the first things that gets mentioned.
Just like other parts of your business, the success of finding and keeping good talent is a process. And, as with most processes, it’s best not to leave it to chance. Throughout my nearly 30-year career as a human resources professional, I have found a few constants to help with recruiting and retention. Most of these I arrived at through observing successful outcomes throughout the years, coupled with tough lessons learned along the way!
Here are three areas of focus that will make your talent search and retention more successful:
•Make the Right Match: clearly define what you need done and match that need with the right personality and skill set
•Make It a Great Fit: once you make hires, understand what motivates them and evolve their role to keep their work challenging
•Keep Everyone Engaged: maintain that motivation with competitive benefits and increasing responsibilities. Reinforce how every team member’s role has an essential impact on your company and your customers
Let’s explore each of these areas:
Make the Right Match:
Finding the right talent starts with understanding why you are looking for someone to begin with. Sound odd? You wouldn’t be the first employer who posts a job without a clear vision of what that individual’s role and responsibilities will be.
Step one to a successful hire begins with a job description. Many business owners decide to hire someone because all of a sudden it got busy, or workload increased. That may be true and it’s definitely a good reason to think about hiring, but is that increase in volume temporary or permanent? If it’s permanent, then a new hire may be what’s needed. Taking the time to write a solid description will help you square up in your own mind exactly what you need this employee to do. And once that’s clear, it will be easier to find the right person to get that work done, freeing you up to concentrate on other tasks – like growing your business.
According to the Small Business Association, good job descriptions begin by knowing the important facets about a job:
•Individual tasks involved
•The methods used to complete the tasks
•The purpose and responsibilities of the job
•The relationship of the job to other jobs, and
•Qualifications needed for the job
But don’t be too strict on your definitions. A flexible job description encourages employees to grow within their position and contribute over time to your overall business.
What should you include in the job description?
•Job title and summary
•Skills and qualifications needed
•An idea of how the department is structured and who the job reports to;
•Job location and where the work will be performed (if different)
•Equipment to be used in the performance of the job, and
•Salary range and benefits
During the screening or interview process also be prepared to provide
•Type of employment: full-time, part-time, contract, temp-to-hire
•Overview about your company
•descriptions of the relationships and roles within the company, including supervisory positions, subordinating roles, team members, and other working relationships
Does a candidate’s experience in a similar role matter?
Without a doubt, prior experience and specific skill sets are important. But it’s equally important to factor in an individual’s personality, work ethic, and how they will fit into your existing culture and operations. A good rule of thumb is: hire for attitude, train for aptitude. A candidate who doesn’t exactly fit the job description but who is a quick learner and a hard worker might be a better solution than someone who has a lot of experience but might not be a fit with the rest of your team. You can always improve skills; but it’s very difficult to improve attitude.
Where do you find the right talent?
Post your positions on online job boards and social media platforms. Gone are the days when a job fair or listings in newspapers or their online versions will get you the candidates you need. LinkedIn is great for recruitment, but Twitter and Facebook are also important distribution channels. And this isn’t true just for recent graduates (high school, tech school or college). It applies to the entire career experience spectrum.
Make It a Great Fit:
Once you’ve found and hired the right candidate, the real work begins. It’s time to motivate and keep them challenged. Some companies rely on a specific department (Human Resources, Training) to design training and career development opportunities for employees. That’s a great strategy, if your company is big enough to have those resources. But the success of that strategy – whether you have an HR team or it all falls on your own shoulders – really comes down to personally knowing the employee and what he or she wants out of this job and their career. Together, you design a career path that is both inspirational and aspirational so that they stay engaged with their current responsibilities while learning the skills (and confidence!) to grow into other roles.
This is true whether you’re hiring a director of marketing or someone to press pants at your dry cleaning business. People want to see that what they do makes a difference and how this job could lead to the next one. For the director of marketing, maybe she wants to become the VP of sales. For the dry cleaning press operator, maybe he wants to run the tailoring area or manage your new location.
Some employees are motivated by compensation and titles. Others are motivated by new responsibilities and a chance to work on new products or in different operational areas. And more and more millennials and younger people are motivated by the experiences they have working for your company. It’s up to you and your managers to work directly with your employees and get inside their heads and collectively design a career path. It may take a little bit more time but you will typically be rewarded with employees who are more engaged, more loyal and more invested in your success.
Keep Everyone Engaged:
The term “employee engagement” gets used a lot when talking about employees, culture and careers. To me, engagement is about earning discretionary effort from your employees in support of company goals and objectives. You won’t get engagement just because you pay well, and you can’t demand it from your employees.
Engagement doesn’t have to put a huge dent in your bottom line. Often it’s simple stuff like including employees in planning sessions and asking them for their input on new products or processes. You’ll actually unlock ideas and possibly even skills that you may not have been aware of. Engagement also signals that you value insight and input – not just output.
Conducting a regular review of your compensation structure is also a way to maintain engagement. When you show that your company is making an effort to keep pace with the industry and local competitors, your employees know that you are looking out for them. This includes evaluating pay and benefits like hourly rates, time-off, and vacation policies. Today’s employees, especially millennials, put big value on work/life balance. Offering flexible hours, work from home options or added time off to enjoy more time with families and friends can be a very attractive incentive. When you show employees that they’re more than a number, you’re increasing the potential for cementing a long-term relationship.
The cost of making bad hiring decisions, both in time and dollars, puts extra importance on approaching your employee search and retention process with the same level of dedication that you pour into every other aspect of your business.
Great talent continues to be hard to find and loyalty is most certainly becoming a lost art. That’s why investing time and energy up front to identify, sign and then keep your next rock star will pay dividends in the end.
Written by Jeff McDonough
Director of Human Resources, Union Savings Bank