It’s really easy for the large Fortune 500 businesses to hire and fire thousands. With there massive personnel departments that are bigger than the largest city in Papua New Guinea, reference checking interns that could easily staff a large McDonalds and slick, online systems (that you installed!!) to process zillions of resumes from faceless degree holders. But what about you and your small business?
In the technology sector it’s even harder to keep staff- every time you hire someone, they jump ship to someone else for a higher salary, more benefits, or better options.
Let’s say that for the past 10 years you, your long time business partners and MAYBE even some other staff have loyally serviced clients. You trust each other and work together like guys serving hot dogs on 1st Avenue in NY City. And your clients love you.
But you begin to realize that in order to grow, in order to expand and be more profitable you’re going to have to hire additional staff.
As you panic and start thinking, “…what if I hire a crack addict who steals my client’s flower pots and tries to sell them to me…?”, “…or hire a young punk who says he can easily integrate legacy databases to the WEB – only to find that he can only erase legacy databases and the backups!!!” “…Or what if the 27-year-old girl with degrees oozing out of her Chanel pumps….can’t read codes?…”
Rest easy, it doesn’t have to be that hard if you carefully read the advice I got from Kelly Newberg, Human Resources Director at Avert (a provider of Internet pre-employment screening) and Stephen Parker, Central Region Vice President at Blessing/White (Blessing/White is a management consulting firm specializing in organizational development that aligns corporate with individual employee values.)
Kelly, explained to me that the best way to find staff is your personal community and professional relationships. How do you think Vernon Jordan (President Clinton’s friend) is so well connected? His Rolodex is brimming with contacts from every major industry in America! If you want to ensure you can find staff then maintain great relationships with your local community of friends, associates, colleagues, competitors, and etc. Even in this age of dot.com this and dot.com that, word of mouth is powerful and more credible than a “bcc’d” email!
Avert keeps it’s ear to the ground by sponsoring events, attending job fairs when relevant to Avert’s hiring needs and keeping close ties with Universities
Make sure your WEB site posts your hiring needs and also encourage your staff to be on the look out for great talent. I’ll say it again, “ENCOURAGE YOUR STAFF TO BE ON THE LOOK OUT FOR GREAT TALENT.” More often than not, your trusted staff are NOT going to refer some imbecilic nut to work for you. Your staff know exactly how your company operates, and what you expect in an ideal hire so let them be your prime recruiting force.
Many companies offer their employees referral bonuses when staff members recruit successful new hires. You may think it a waste of money to give $50, $1000, or more dollars to staff for bringing in a new hire. But guess what? If YOUR staff brings in a new hire, there’s a greater chance that the new person is better, overall, for your business than someone brought in otherwise. Your staff know your business.
What about the Internet? If you want most of your hires to be local staff, and are not willing to foot the moving bill for new staff in non-management positions, the Internet may not be the best place for you. However, for finding senior executives, that you would be more willing to move to your business, the Internet can be a great and cost effective tool.
Once you’ve found this person, how can you be sure the person is for you? Well, Kelly recommends that you perform a standard set of checks (criminal, resume references, professional certification (as applicable to the job) and etc) for all new hires. This way you won’t be accused of any particular bias towards an individual. When asking questions, performing checks and etc keep in mind that you AND the person you are hiring have certain rights. Whatever you do, do it with the thought in mind “….if I had to tell this to a judge….”.
In working towards keeping that great new staff member, it’s very important to find out why they are there. If they are there for only a pay check – there’s really nothing you can do to keep them from leaving if another company offers them a larger salary. However, if they are there for more creative freedom – you now know what makes them tick. Maybe they are looking for a job that offers them more time with their family. Be flexible and accommodate them, and you’ll have happy, long lasting employees.
Stephen of BlessingWhite educated me about “Vbiz” or “Value Business” – more on this later though. He started off by explaining to me that many companies focus so much on hiring their employees but spend little effort on keeping them. Your attitude in hiring should be “hire for attitude, train for skill”.
I was reading a recent issue of Fast Company magazine, that interviewed the director of personnel for Dell Computer Corporation. The director said that at times Dell will hire an executive even if they don’t have a position for the person. Why? Dell is hiring a person, an experience, an attitude NOT a
degree or resume.
Now to “vbiz” or “value business”.
Stephen Parker of BlessingWhite said it’s crucial, that before a business starts hiring anyone – the business must first have a clear understanding of “who we are” and “what are our values”. Once these two questions are clearly answered, the small business owner can then go about finding people to fit the positions in this defined company. If your company is about quick sales, with less emphasis on accuracy, then you can find people accordingly. However, if your business is more concerned with accuracy, and time is not so important then find people to fit this type of business.
On the flip side, Stephen said it’s important to understand that your customers want a solution, not a product. Therefore often times it may be more important for you to consider the PERSON you’re hiring and not so much their skill sets (Note: of course there are certain benchmarks and standards you’ll want for employees in any given job position, but all things being equal – hire the person, not the skill set)
Many entrepreneurs and small business owners already know the kind of business they want or have. It’s just that when hiring, this process needs to be put on paper.
Fellow consultants and small business technologists – in this coming year, we can’t do “business as usual” But it’s time to take a step away from the technology we strive to provide our clients, and work instead on re-engineering our small businesses.
(Note: Article originally published in February 2000).
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