Recruitment Strategies to Expand your Small Business Hiring
By: John Rossheim, Monster Senior Contributing Writer
Your business somehow weathered the devastating economic recession; you’ve seen your business grow. Your hard-working team is doing double duty and you’ve made a point to prioritize employee motivation; yet your people may be nearing a breaking point as the workload mounts. Your credit line can’t be counted on as banks continue to tighten the reins on lending. What do you need to do?
Make an employee recruitment strategy for next month, next year and well into the future. And make that plan right now.
If you don’t yet have a plan for bringing on more workers, you’re certainly not alone. “Most small businesses don’t seem to have a hiring plan,” says Roberta Matuson, president of consulting firm Human Resource Solutions in Northampton, Mass. But if you want to keep ahead of the competition, start planning your headcount increase today — even if you don’t anticipate adding to your payroll for quite a while. To get you started, here are four factors to consider in the recruiting and hiring process.
Plan employee recruitment to serve your evolving market
With shrewd moves and good luck, your business will grow in the coming months and years. So it’s time to start plotting the skills mix and bandwidth that you’ll need to handle your company’s next phase. “Lots of small companies aren’t dealing with the challenge of their business increasing,” says Matuson. “These businesses aren’t hiring; they’re just asking their people to do more. But you can only do that for so long before people are exhausted and say, ‘I’m done.’ ”
Your clients, like most American businesses and individuals, are pressing harder than ever to receive top value. That means you’ll have to serve new needs economically, with a lean labor force that’s still up to the task. “As markets change, you need to plan for where you’re going to get the necessary skills,” says Matt Rivera, director of customer solutions at staffing firm Yoh.
Before you hire, show yourself the money
It used to be that small businesses could borrow for a few months to cover the financial gap between a payroll increase and the receipt of additional revenue produced by those new employees. But that’s changed in the draconian credit environment of the 2010s. The simplest and safest approach: “If you don’t have the cash flow, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it,” says John Millikin, a professor at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.
Never forget that today’s cash-cow customer could be tomorrow’s former client. “Things happen in business,” says Patty Barry, a principal at public relations firm Matter Communications in Newburyport, Mass. “So we don’t hire until we have the revenue to support it.”
Allow time for hires to come aboard and get productive
Applicants are plentiful in these times, but candidates who meet your criteria won’t necessarily be quick to come by. “We’re having a hard time finding people in the sweet spot of four to five years of experience,” says Barry. “We certainly have a lot of interest in the company, but it’s still not easy to get the right people.”
Remember to build in time for the onboarding process; even skilled workers who are skilled learners don’t reach their full potential in a matter of days. “It probably takes 6 to 12 months to get a salesperson up to speed,” says Tim Slattery, CEO of Corporate Fulfillment Systems, a marketing services firm in Norton, Mass.
Also keep in mind that, if you maintain high standards on the job, you may need to terminate the employee. “On the production floor, we probably go through eight or 10 people to finder a keeper,” says Slattery. “Many don’t like what they’re doing or aren’t a good fit for us. That’s why we hire temp-to-perm and make a decision on a hire after three months.”
Beware of disruptions as you grow your staff
Perhaps the most subtle growth challenge is to add staff while keeping clients happy and maintaining the company culture that made you successful. “People hire quickly because they want a warm body,” says Jennifer Thompson, a professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. “When you bring in someone who’s a difficult employee, the higher performers don’t like it. One person has a large impact on a small workplace.”
Matter Communications maintains good client relations by avoiding switching them from an experienced account executive to a new hire. “Our goal is to onboard employees onto new teams for new clients, or onto teams that already have a great relationship with a client,” says Barry.