Where do I start?
The first thing is to decide why you want to employ someone? The more specific you can be here, then the easier it will be to write a Job Description, understand the required skills and ultimately to find the right person for the job. The role may, of course, evolve over time, but at the outset make sure that you’re employing the right person to do what you want done.
The right person? Yes, mainly because you don’t want to invest time in training someone, only for them to leave – your choice or theirs - and then have to start all over again. Also bear in mind that this individual will be representing your business and you have to be comfortable with the impression that they are likely to give to customers and suppliers. Even if you use an employment agency to find someone for you, I would always recommend being involved – you don’t want to issue an Employment Contract to someone with whom you simply don’t “hit it off”.
Do I need to provide an Employment Contract? Yes, every employee will need a contract that describes the position and what is expected, the clearer the better to protect you, and them. There are many generic Employment Contracts around online, your solicitor may be able to help and there are also many Employment Law providers who will be pleased to help. Some of these latter offerings will of course cost but think at this stage about the longer term, as several will also provide Human Resources support. This could include help with keeping employee records for say overtime and sickness, holiday planning, training records, online Health and Safety training and even some HR support, such as how to deal effectively with grievance procedures. This may all seem over the top for just one employee, but in the longer term this approach can pay dividends and save you a whole load of grief and cash. As always, shop around and make sure that you know what you are getting for your money.
Having found someone and given them a contract, who shows them what to do? If this is your first employee, then inevitably it is going to be you doing the training. All of a sudden you are spending time training instead of just getting on and carrying out the task yourself, which probably seems like the easier option! Remember though, the better the training at the outset, the quicker your new employee is likely to pick up what is needed, thus freeing your time to do other things.
What next, I’m guessing I don’t just leave them to get on with it? Best not: “delegate, don’t abdicate”! Having trained your employee, you still need to manage them and even coach them. In terms of managing them, this is really making sure that they are getting on with their tasks in a timely and effective fashion. For example, if they are issuing invoices or collecting payments, you don’t want to risk your business running out of cash. The relationship works best if you manage, not micro-manage. Look to move on quickly from examining every invoice or telling them which one to do next. If you keep having issues and things fall apart maybe it is the process that is at fault, not your new employee?
How do I get the best out of my new employee? Become a coach! Helping them to understand and perhaps challenge how things are done. Encouraging them to suggest process improvements (how can those invoices be issued or cash collected more effectively?) will help to grow your new employee. Clearly this is beneficial to the employee, but also to you: good coaching will be recognised and valued by the employee and encourage them to do more for you and your business, either aiding the business growth or taking more pressure off you and freeing up your time.
There are some positives there but I’m sure that there’s the potential for negatives as well? Inevitably. Every employee isn’t going to deliver 100% satisfaction no matter what checks you make or how many interviews were carried out. Potential problems could include frequent absences, poor time keeping, inappropriate dress, improper use of social media, or simply not carrying out their work to a satisfactory standard. Sometimes these things can be nipped in the bud with a quick conversation, but if this doesn’t work you need to act quickly and take appropriate action in line with Employment Law. This is where one of the providers I mentioned earlier can help as they effectively provide you with your own Human Resources Department, the cost often being based on annual payroll. Shop around and I would look for a provider that offers “preferred outcome” advice - the conversation being around “what do you want the outcome to be? Corrected performance or dismissal?” They can then help to ensure that you act in the correct manner and don’t fall foul of Employment Law, leading to the potential for legal action against you.
So, I can still sack staff? Not a great starting point seeing as you have just employed them but yes, if you have good reason to do so AND you follow the correct procedures. Bear in mind that you then need to find a replacement and train them, effectively starting all over again. The moral is, find the right person at the outset, train them well, reward them and minimise staff turnover. However, whatever route you take, I would strongly recommend urgency, so that you are minimising disruption to your business - if you are going to have to cut your losses, cut them quick!