The Small Business People Puzzle, Part 1

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shutterstock_154552481A 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 in 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. Write an effective job description and share it with your network of business contacts and friends. Let them help you.

But, it’s not enough to find the right people. You have to attract them 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.

Whether you have multiple people or only one person, 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 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. This is also the time to review job responsibilities together and explain how 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 them.


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