How to hire the right person and improve the ones you already have
Jack Rice, a longtime speaker in the small business arena, has said there are three ways to obtain the best employees. The first is to hire the good ones away from the competition. But that is expensive, as most likely you will be able to lure them away only with money. And if their current employers know these are good employees, they probably already pay them fairly well.
The second option Jack mentions is to train them to be good employees. This does not take as much money, but it does require plenty of time and effort. It also requires that you, or someone working for you, know the necessary techniques to produce the results you want and need.
With a smile and sense of humor, Jack gives a third option—to pray the Small Business Prayer. (“O God, I hope this person works out better than the last one.”) While you may look at any or all three of the options, we would like to suggest you first re-examine the initial hiring process. From our experiences working with many businesses over the years, we would like to share some of their best suggestions. The first is to let you know that most of them are always looking for new employees. Not that they want to fire someone, but they always leave the door open for a potential employee to introduce himself or herself.
When they are looking for a new employee, they have told us the best “help-wanted” ad begins with a description of what the person is to do in the job, rather than first stating the job title or name of the business. The next key ingredient is a job description. It does not have to be long or detailed; some of the best we have seen are no more than a list, numbered in order of importance—1 through 10—a brief description of what the employee is to do.
This job description is attached to the application form and is required reading before the applicant can fill out the form. Some retailers even require the applicant to sign the job description before filling out the application. The signature is designed to signify that the applicant understands the job description and is able to fulfill it. The next part of the application process is unique to the most successful businesses. Rather than the owner or manager interviewing the applicant, two of the best employees are assigned the responsibility of individually and collectively conducting the interview.
Experience has shown that by having employees conduct the interview, the candidate is likely to ask more questions and receive more believable answers. When the owner or manager conducts the interview, he or she sometimes overlooks potential weaknesses of the candidate. This is especially true if the owner or manager is working hours that would traditionally be covered by the new employee.
Another benefit of having the best employees conduct the interviews is that they have shown a strong ability to find candidates who more closely duplicate the skills of the better employees. The employees conducting the interview are also looking to find a new employee whom they will like and want to work with. There is also the advantage of performing the interview to show the boss their managerial skills.
Once you have hired the new employee, the next challenge is making sure he or she fits in and stays on the job. If a person is going to leave a job, he will most likely do so within the first 90 days. The other downside of this statistic is knowing your business will spend 40 to 60 percent of a year’s wages before you have developed a productive employee. Looking again to our successful businesses, many of them assign a coach to the new employee. It is the responsibility of the coach to mentor, answer questions, and develop a friendship with the new employee.
A benefit for the coach is a reward when the new employee has successfully completed a six-month job review. Some of the most popular rewards have been two weekends off with pay, a week off with pay, or a cash bonus of one week’s pay. Of course, there are some businesses who will say this is an expensive price to pay for a new employee; but after a business has gone through three or four employees within a six-month period in an attempt to fill one slot on its team, the coach idea may appear as quite a deal.
One comment we have heard from these successful businesses is that if you are unhappy with the employees you currently have, you are not going to build a new team of employees by trying to hire better ones—one at a time. Without exception, we were told that no matter how strong your efforts, a new hire is more affected by the surrounding employees than by the boss. The suggestion we received was that you create a training program. Something as simple as an hour every other week will put you well on the way to increasing the productivity of your staff.
The ideal employee may or may not come walking through your door; but by utilizing the techniques of these successful businesses, you are more likely to recognize that person as well as improve the staff you currently have. With the cost of labor being such a sizeable percentage of the expenses on your income statement, isn’t this the advantage you want and need to have?