A recent post titled Big Challenges for Small Business Owners examined three important areas all successful small business owners must manage: people, finances, and time. In this and the following posts, let’s look deeper into each of the three topics. First, let’s tackle the trickiest of the three: people.

For many business owners, people truly are puzzling. Workers come in all shapes and sizes, both physically and ”mentally”. You hire one person who appears to be ideal and they fail miserably. You hire someone else who seems somewhat questionable and they become your superstar. Your existing employees are all over the map in performance and initiative. This leaves you wishing you could wave a magic wand and make it all the way you want it to be. If only it were that easy!

There are lots of pieces to the people puzzle… way more than can be covered in a short post like this. So, let’s examine some fundamentals from the perspective of hiring new people. With a little creativity, many of the following principles can also be applied to your existing employees to improve their performance and job satisfaction.

As you grow or need to replace people on your team, your key challenge is to find, attract, select, on-board, train, motivate, and retain the “right” people to ensure your business is successful. Let’s consider each of these steps briefly…

The first step is to find the right people… or help them find you. Most owners find that the best people with the least risk for failure come through referral from people they know. This includes their better employees. Write an effective job description and share it with your employees, network of business contacts, and friends. Consider implementing a documented employee referral program with financial incentives. Multiply your odds of success by letting others help you.

Now what? As you identify good prospective employees you, the next step is that you must attract the prospects to you, your business, and the job itself. Share with them what is great about your company and what types of people enjoy working there. Explain the benefits of working for you. Help them understand the potential growth and rewards of being a high performer in your business. Answer the question “Why would I want to work here?”.

Whether you need to hire multiple people or only one person, the third factor is you need some type of selection process. Relying on gut instincts and soliciting reasonable answers to basic interview questions is not enough. There are a variety of pre-hire assessments that can be used to provide a more objective evaluation. Choose one or more assessments (that are legally defensible for making hiring choices) and apply them consistently in your hiring process.

Once you have selected the right person, they need to be supported in the first weeks and months of coming on board. It need not be extensive, but a documented process for this definitely helps ensure that the new hire knows what they will be provided and what is expected of them. Identify if they need training or other resources to be capable of performing at a high level in their new job. This is also the time to review job responsibilities with them and explain how (and how often) their performance will be measured and evaluated.

Now that you have the right person on board, there is still a lot more to do. In the next post we’ll discuss training, motivating, and retaining your people.

PS: I have developed a chart that shows 20 critical steps in the hiring process. If you would like to receive a copy, so you don’t overlook critical steps, email me at richard@richardkirby.net and request my “Hiring Process Flowchart”.