Your people are your most valuable resource. Even though so much in a business can now be automated thanks to technological advancements and the cloud, this should really only be to free up your human talent to focus on more high value tasks in your business – not to replace them.
Humans are what make businesses great – they deliver exceptional customer service, come up with creative and innovative ideas and add the human touch that we are all still interested in.
The challenge then is hiring the right people – for the right positions.
Here are the five biggest questions you should be asking yourself when it comes to staffing – and how to answer them.
1. Should I hire or outsource?
The hiring versus outsourcing debate has many pros and cons. On the one hand, when you outsource a function it tends to be more cost-effective for the business:
- You only pay for the services when you need them, instead of paying for a full-time resource
- You can often access a level of expertise that you would not be able to afford if you employed the person full-time.
Market experts are expensive – too expensive for start-ups and small businesses. But many of those experts freelance or work on a retainer basis, which means they become affordable for smaller businesses.
The downside of outsourcing has to do with culture more than anything else. When resources are not sitting inside the business, they don’t always understand (or adhere) to your company’s culture. This can impact customer service, productivity and a range of other aspects.
To determine whether you should go the outsourcing or hiring route, consider these key questions:
- Is the job critical to your value proposition? For example, if your business is based on a sophisticated tech algorithm, this is core to your business. If that’s the case, don’t outsource it.
- Is it something your business needs, but isn’t core to your business? Unless you’re a marketing firm, marketing often falls into this category, as does accounting service. These are both functions you could potentially outsource.
- Can you access greater expertise if you outsource? Many experts in their fields choose to consult or freelance because of the flexibility it offers them. The gig economy is driving this culture as well. Start-ups and smaller businesses can now access these skills by the hour, instead of hiring a dedicated resource.
- Does the position require a full-time person, or will a few hours a week cover it? Don’t invest in a full-time resource until the work scope requires a full-time person.
If you do choose the outsourcing route, make sure you and your contractor are on the same page.
- Be clear in your expectations
- Have measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) that you can monitor and track
- Monitor and track them – and hold your service provider accountable
- Ensure you get along – you don’t need to be best friends, but a good working relationship is preferable
- Pay your contractor on time -they are a member of your team, even if they aren’t a permanent employee
2. How do I create a job description and KPIs?
Hiring the right person begins with the right job description. This sounds simple, but in many cases – particularly start-ups and small businesses, job scopes tend to cross a number of different areas. To ensure that your hire is on the same page as you, and knows exactly what is expected of them, draft a comprehensive job description.
- Begin by listing all the areas of the business they will be involved in
- Break this down into key categories and tasks
- List how they will be held accountable for each task, and who they will report to
- Be clear, concise and thorough
- Include any future areas the job might grow into
Once you have built your job description, you can create Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, to track how well your employee performs in their designated role.
The key to successfully using KPIs is two-fold:
- Use it as a tool to ensure you and your employees are in agreement around expectations and then track progress according to those expectations
- Where expectations are not met, do not use KPIs as a way to penalise. Instead, use them to motivate your employees and to help them see where they can improve themselves – based on agreed-upon tasks, duties and responsibilities.
3. How do I create a job ad?
You can’t create a good job ad before you have your job description worked out, so complete that step first.
Once you have your job description written down, use it as the basis for a job advert as well as your interview.
Keep this in mind:
- Many poor hires are the result of poor job ads and no real job descriptions. Employees don’t know what is expected of them, and sometimes don’t even suit the position.
- You could miss out on top talent. If you aren’t detailing what the job entails, you might miss some key prospective employees who don’t even apply for the position, because they don’t realise how well it suits them.
- No one knows what you’re looking for. If you’re using an agency, they might not understand what you’re looking for either, and publish a poor job ad or look for the wrong people.
Once you have your job ad, you can start looking for the best candidate. There are many ways to do this, from apps to online platforms, Linkedin and other social media channels to recruitment agencies.
The key to success is knowing what you are looking for, and choosing the right candidate for the job – not just the best candidate. Many start-ups and small businesses only go to market once they’ve grown a bit and desperately need a hire – right now! The result is that they end up choosing the best of the batch, but not necessarily the right person for the business.
The rule of thumb is fire fast, hire slow. If you don’t find the right person, go back to the market. Your job description and job ad will help in this regard. Stick to it. If you find you aren’t, you know you’re bending your own rules to make a hire.
4. How do I interview to find the right candidate?
Interviews are very subjective, and a lot of different advice has been written about how to successfully interview candidates. Here are xx pieces of advice you should implement in your own process:
- Ask questions relating to work experience, but also to the person’s personal life and character
- Ask about a workplace conflict and how it was resolved. This will give you insight into how they handle conflict and if they’ll admit they have been in a conflict situation (which we all have).
- Question like a five-year-old. Keep asking why? Eventually, the scripted answers will run out and you’ll get an honest, off-the-cuff answer.
- Check how much they know about your business and if they bothered to do some research before the interview
- Include some form of test during the interview – this is the best way to corroborate what’s on a resume
- Call references – don’t ignore this step
5. Do I need a formal contract?
The answer to this question is always yes, even if it’s a family member. The reasons are simple, and they protect you, the business and your employee:
- A formal contract will outline the exact job requirements as well as the company’s code of conduct. This leaves no grey areas. Everyone knows exactly what is expected of them, from the business towards the employee and vice-versa.
- Clearly delineating expectations creates a transparent workplace where KPIs can be tracked and issues can quickly be addressed.
- Every relationship begins well. Some employment contracts end on good terms – but others don’t. Rather prepare for the worst and never need it than the other way around.
Mistakes to Avoid
Overall, there are a few key mistakes that many businesses make and they span across the areas listed above. You might still make them – but hopefully you won’t make them twice.
Don’t hire fast and fire slowly. The rule of thumb is ‘hire slowly, fire fast.’ This isn’t a saying that is focused on firing people so much as there to remind us that you should hire the right person for your business – not the best candidate from the current batch. If they aren’t a good fit, move on. If you do get a hire wrong and they are clearly toxic to the business, get them out as quickly as possible. You’ll both be better off.
Don’t save costs by choosing the ‘cheaper’ option. Unless you’re outsourcing, someone with skills who is asking for a higher salary will most likely give you a much higher output than the small difference that their salary represents. It’s worth the extra cost.
Don’t take resumes at face value. Ever. Phone references and try and find one or two references that we’re even listed in the resume. Unfortunately, people lie, so double and triple check everything – including skills with on-site tests during the interview process.