As a business owner, one of your most important tasks is workforce management. It's your job to make sure you have the right people--and the right number of people--to keep your company running smoothly. Now let's say your business is growing and you're sensing you need to hire new employees. How can you really be sure the time is right to bring in additional staff? There are at least seven common clues:
- Your employees are working very hard--perhaps too hard--and they're letting you know--or complaining--that they have too much to do. Complaints of this nature aren't uncommon, but your task is to determine if they're legitimate. How can you do that? Try talking to your employees and asking them to validate their concerns of being "overworked." Then look at attendance and productivity indicators to substantiate their claims. If what you find confirms their feedback, then you might decide to reorganize and restructure roles and responsibilities to better deal with the workflow. Or you could use your new knowledge as a guide to hiring additional employees.
- Employees claim they want to take on more tasks or spend additional time on current ones--if only they had the time.
- The growth curve for your products or services is increasing, and you identify that as a positive trend, not just a blip on the consumer radar.
- You see an opportunity for growth and expansion in your industry or related industries, and decide that now's the time to take a calculated risk to expand. But current employees aren't available to assume additional responsibilities.
- You determine that your employee's existing job skills and knowledge are fine for your company's current level of productivity, but to expand, you'll need either increased skills and knowledge or a new and different set of skills and knowledge.
- Revenue is at or above target and you project it to continue; other than financially rewarding yourself and/or your employees, you wonder what to do with the increased revenue.
After taking a long, hard look at the state of your business, you decide to expand by hiring additional employees. But what do you have to take into account and do when adding a new position and a new hire? First, you need to create a comprehensive, clearly written job description that includes these factors:
- The major and related duties, responsibilities and tasks the employee must perform
- The expected standards of job performance
- The reporting relationships--the people or job title to whom the employee will report and who, if anyone, will report to the new hire
- The financial and fiscal responsibilities and spending limits--if any
- The standards of acceptable behavior
- The working conditions
Besides being used when hiring new staff, this same document is crucial in serving as a basis for evaluating employee performance. If it's too general, non-specific or doesn't adequately reflect what the employee actually does on the job, then it's a waste of your time and effort.
When it comes to actually choosing the best candidate for the job, the best advice I can give you is this: Hiring someone simply because you need an "extra body" is foolish and inevitably results in poor performance, decreased productivity and decreased morale. So be sure to hire only someone who actually fits the job description you've created. In fact, shooting for the stars by knowingly increasing your standards to hire the best possible candidate--even it takes some time to find the right person--is well worth it.
Once you've hired someone, you need to decide what you'll do to maximize the person's strengths while addressing and minimizing limitations. Here are some tips that will help you get the most of your new hire:
- Set up a process with the new hire's direct supervisor to monitor progress. Provide immediate feedback on all aspects of job performance. Don't wait for the end of the typical 90-day review period to catch the person doing something right or wrong. Immediate feedback provides the immediate opportunity for growth and improved performance.
- Create a training program, either formal or informal, depending on the size of your company. The goal of this program will be to bring the new person up to speed with the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for successful completion of their new job. Simply because a candidate was successful in a similar job at another organization does not ensure this person will be successful in your organization.
- Develop a mentoring system: Select an individual who can serve as "Big Brother" or "Big Sister" to offer advice, especially on "how things are done around here" as well as possible landmines, such as difficult people, issues, politics, processes, norms or unwritten rules. This mentor should be a respected individual in your company, but should not be the person's direct supervisor. (Creating such a system is also a good idea for existing employees.)
By following these guidelines, you'll be able to decide whether or not to expand your workforce, create a workable job description, provide feedback to the new hire, and created a training and mentoring system to increase the potential for success. Good luck!
Dr. David G. Javitch is an organizational psychologist, leadership specialist, and President of Javitch Associates in Newton, Mass. Author of How to Achieve Power in Your Life, Javitch is in demand as a consultant for his skills in assessment, coaching, training and facilitating groups and retreats.