14/05/2014

By Beatrice Bartlay, Founder and Managing Director of 2B Interface

I firmly believe that the most important element of a successful and profitable business is the people. The people make a brand, the people are the ones delivering excellent customer service, and it’s the people making sure that customers get exactly what they pay for. Needless to say that sourcing the right people has historically been a challenge for every business, and it never gets any easier.

Like it or not, sourcing the right – and best fit– staff for your business is an arduous and time-intensive task. But the rewards can be plentiful if it’s done right. Many industries, such as hospitality, contact centres and retail, suffer from acute staff attrition rates that make it expensive and difficult to eradicate successfully. Some of the most pioneering methods of recruitment – from game-playing, to team away days – come straight from these industries.

The problem is being able to judge individuals on interview time alone. Does this person just interview well? Will they perform to the expected standard and beyond when asked? How would they behave on a daily basis in the workplace? Will their colleagues be able to get on with them and work as a team? No employer ever knows for sure how the person is going to fit in until they start the role. Probation periods exist for that reason, to enable the employee to settle in, decide if the role is right for them and to have their suitability assessed. It’s also a time for the employer to decide to continue to employ the individual, or look elsewhere.

But prevention is always better than the cure. There are some key steps – from interview to working on a daily basis – that employers can take to reduce risk from the off, increase the information available to make a decision and allay any fears, as well as lower the danger of attrition.

1. Ask the experts
Whether your business already has an HR department or not, it is always worth assessing what processes they perform on a daily basis and whether it is more cost effective to outsource some processes, particularly recruitment, to an expert. If your business is within a niche industry for example, there are specialist suppliers of staffing that can manage the advertising, sourcing, interviewing and selection as part of the service. And of course, if the agency is unsuccessful, there is no fee. Take a view of what is more beneficial for your business. This is particularly useful to consider when your company is growing rapidly, so as to alleviate pressure on the HR department if you have one.

2. Understand exactly what you need more staff for
By better understanding and analysing your business forecasts, plans – and of course goals and objectives – you should be able to effectively pinpoint whether your business needs full-time positions filled, or simply a temporary staffing solution. Temporary staff can be cost effective during seasonal swings for certain industries, including retail, hospitality and utilities, and there are expert staffing companies available to ensure you get a good fit for your business needs, whatever the season.

3. Test their performance in a real-life situation
Although putting individuals on the spot in an interview situation is something nobody wants to do, it is perhaps obvious and extremely important that you test the competency of an individual before hiring them. Figure out what key tasks they will be undertaking in their day-to-day processes, and set them a realistic task in a timed and controlled environment, so you can see how they are likely to perform. However, when giving tasks such as these, bear in mind that the candidate is under unusual stress so they should be given some leeway on this. As I mentioned previously, some employers believe that having a candidate come into the workplace to do a day or more’s ‘normal’ work, or they hold ‘away days’ to put them in a group situation with other candidates and existing team members. This is effective for relaxing the candidate and demonstrating skills or attributes that may otherwise have been missed under interview conditions.

4. Ensure that they are a cultural fit
Ensure that the candidate is both a fit in terms of skills, as well as (and this is very important) culturally. As an employer, you need to understand exactly what is important to you and your business in terms of what the individual can deliver in terms of value, and if their personality ‘suits’ both your company image and the team already in place. For example, if your team is spread across the country, each working individually, the ‘cultural fit’ matters less than it would compared with, say, a manager who travels a lot with staff members and is going to be on long haul flights with them. Or teams that work in an office, developing ideas and deploying projects together on a regular basis. This environment has little to no space for personality clashes if high levels of creativity and productivity is important to you. If you are outsourcing your recruitment, ensure that your partner understands your business culture equally as well, and that they are able to identify where needs and candidate attributes have to match.

5. Don’t disregard succession planning
As an employer looking to fulfil a role – whether newly created or recently vacated – it is critical that you look within your existing team or teams. Employee development and promotion from within is a fantastic motivator and demonstrates the commitment of your company to your workforce’s individual career goals and future plans. Succession planning will help you to create a contingency against key employees leaving. Unfortunately, managers are often too swift to hire outside of the business, and should look at implementing a proactive training and education plan.

6. And the number one rule? Don’t let the good ones get away
The team is core to a business’s success and it is not just sourcing staff, which can be a challenge, but retaining them too. From my experience, the insight is quite simple – your team leaders must be the best example to learn from; must have an ability to inspire the team; be supportive, polite and retain a sense of humour too. In any difficult situation, a manager needs to keep as cool as a cucumber and never criticise people in front of others. Champion employees that do well. Remember to reward team members and never ever forget to say thank you or job well done. The employer must also be able to create goals, which are coherent with team members’ personal aims and aspirations. Only in this way will employees feel valued and that they are making a necessary contribution to your business’s bottom line. Never forget the importance of good people when it comes to running successful business.

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