Finding and keeping good employees

Your dream of business ownership has come true. You have a name for your business, your products, your location, a business plan with which to manage, a website and social media presence and lots of customers. However, you are missing one element — employees. How do you find the right employees, and how do you ensure the good ones will stay?

What should I consider before I hire?

woman being interviewed by three businesspeopleWhen hiring, look for employees that balance your strengths and weaknesses. If you are a creative genius but are poorly organized, try to attract someone who can bring some order to the company’s work.

Remember that what you hire is what you’ll get in terms of personality, strengths, weaknesses and work style. Good employees are found, not changed. You cannot change someone’s personal attributes. Don’t expect to try.

Start the hiring process by asking yourself, “Who are we?” and “What are our values?” Any company must first have an understanding of “who” it is before it can know what kind of employee it wants to hire. You can help someone learn a skill, but you cannot teach attitude. The better the attitude, the better service your customers will likely receive.

Employees look for responsibility, a good working environment, a sense of accomplishment, a belief in the business and what it does and a fair salary. When interviewing prospective employees, ask them what they expect to find in the position. Determine what skills and attributes are most needed for the job, and see if your expectations and the applicant’s match. If they do, you have a good beginning for a productive relationship.

Where can I find good employees?

If you already have employees, are pleased with them and are looking for more like them, ask them to keep their eyes open for talented prospects. If you believe you can trust an employee and if that employee trusts the prospect, chances are you can trust the prospect as well. Many companies offer a special bonus when current employees bring in successful hires.

The Internet can be a good source for employees, particularly for entry-level professional positions. Many small businesses still use the standard classified advertisement, while a growing number are using employee referral programs. Other possibilities are through business networks, at job fairs and through online job boards and LinkedIn.

Another option, particularly during lean times, is hiring independent contractors (ICs) or outside professionals. Many independent contractors can be paid by the job rather than by the hour and will help you avoid the cost of fringe benefits. ICs are good sources for special expertise for specific jobs, but make sure you follow the rules the IRS requires for distinguishing ICs from employees.

How do I keep the good hires?

The person you select to work for your business should have a good reason for wanting to work with you, and it shouldn’t be just the paycheck. Employees value other benefits such as flexible hours, a pleasant atmosphere, quality professional development and career potential. Find out what is most attractive to your workers about your business, and try to ensure that you can offer that benefit. It’s the best way to retain good people.

As in any relationship, communication is key. Keep your workers informed about what is going on with the company. One of the biggest mistakes you can make as an owner/operator is to share company information with investors, stockholders and partners and not with employees. Better communication will result in higher productivity and morale.

Technology can help. Use email, voice mail and instant messaging to keep your employees informed. Set weekly or biweekly staff meetings to discuss issues in more depth and to offer time for feedback and input. Share challenges and successes, and invite ideas and complaints. Such meetings are particularly critical during business startup. Things change quickly; keep your employees informed. Although some employee benefits are very expensive, good communication and the sense of belonging to a team are free.

Remember that when someone — customer or employee — has an extremely positive or negative experience with your company, that person will tell others about it. Work to keep both groups happy and business will improve. Should problems arise, deal with them quickly and decisively. Respond to compliments and resolve complaints immediately. Positive word of mouth can be a highly effective, yet inexpensive, marketing tool.

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