8 key things every small business needs to know about employing people

Ruth Cornish
Founder | Amelore Ltd
27th April 2015

The quality of the team you work with is essential to the success of your business. Employing people with the right skills and experience, and working to retain the talent you already have, will underpin your business growth in the long run.

Whether your business is growing and you need advice on hiring new staff, or you want tips on ensuring the right talent sticks with your company, HR expert Ruth Cornish sums up the 8 things you need to know when employing people.

1. Recruitment

Introducing talent into your business is going to be a key part of your success. It will also be one of your biggest frustrations.  It’s important that you are really clear about the skills and experience you need and whether the job you are recruiting for can be done by one person.  Sometimes a really broad skills mix is expected and it may be better to split the job.

Don’t let recruitment agencies boss you about. Whilst those that get to know you and your business and constantly deliver are worth their weight in gold, many are sales in its crudest form.  You are busy – don’t waste your time with anyone that doesn’t add value. All agencies will negotiate on rates.  Direct advertising is also useful – it’s also PR for you – Linkedin, Indeed, Glosjobs, MyBristolJobs are useful as well as your own website. 

Don’t forget to ask staff, customers and suppliers. If you have a good reputation with them, you will find people will want to work for you.

2. Flexible working and outsourcing

Don’t rule out flexible working or outsourcing if you are small but want to hire experienced staff.  Better to have a part-time person at the level required than a junior person who needs constant direction.  Consider outsourcing functions like Book-keeping, Payroll and HR so you pay for a slither of expertise and don’t have someone else to manage.

3. Contracts of employment

Your offer letter or email will form part of the contract of employment you have with your new staff member.  Within two months of them joining you also have a legal requirement to send them a statement of terms and conditions including details of pay, working hours and holidays.

The holiday entitlement is 20 days plus bank holidays.  If your holiday year runs April to March this year you will have two Easters in it so contract wording is important.

Take care to ensure that you have a probation period with the correct notice period once they have passed.  If it is a senior role or a scarce skill the notice period would be higher.  The legal minimum is one week for every year of service up to 12 years but most employers want more protection. Avoid agreeing different terms with different people.  An online system can store all your employment records.

4. Key areas of focus

Not briefing someone in properly about what you expect can lead to disappointing results.  All new employees need to know what their key areas of focus and targets are. A well drafted job description and a considered induction plan are a good investment of your time.

5. Retention is king

Don’t make the mistake of focusing too much on your new employees. We recommend the concept of “stay interviews”, the reverse of traditional exit interviews when someone has already told you they are going.

Tell your employee you value them and share the future as you see it.  Ask them if there are any benefits you don’t offer that they would welcome.  Often staff appreciate small gestures like fresh fruit in the office and birthday gifts.

If your talented employee needs more development consider how this can be met.  You may want to find them an external mentor or give them additional responsibilities to develop them. Programmes like Growth Accelorator can provide upto £2,000 in a training grant for your key people. 

6. Are you on brand?

Your business will have a brand and you will have a reputation in the market place.  How you treat your staff internally creates your culture which should be a continuation of your brand. Everyone enjoys a workplace that looks and feels different and treats them as a valued individual.

7. Never tolerate mediocrity or under performance

Every business we start working with has at least one person, if not more that are not delivering or adding value.  Often the business owner feels they can’t do anything and are worried about the threat of an Employment Tribunal. Claims have dropped by almost 85% in the last year with the average payout only £4,000.  If someone is not performing you can do something about it.  The law expects both employers and employees to behave reasonably.  If you are paying a salary it is reasonable to expect them to do the job they are being paid. Never under estimate how doing nothing affects the morale of the team. 

8. If you can’t change the people, change the people

Hire slowly but fire quickly is one of best pieces of advice we could give.  That is not to encourage a cavalier attitude regarding terminations but there comes a time when it is necessary to let your business move forward. 

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