Talented employees are crucial to grow a business, but many entrepreneurial companies struggle to attract people who fit. The resulting lack of fit can lead to lower performance and high turnover.
The problem is that the company is quick to hire and does not take the time to think about why they are hiring and what is required to be successful in the role. Entrepreneurs often fill positions by hiring their friend’s nephew who just dropped off a resume. Or their whole recruitment strategy is based on trying to find impressive candidates. But employers need more than just good people. They need good people who are right for the job.
There is a better way. Don’t just post a job and hope you find someone who fits, consider why you are hiring in the first place.
Employment is tied to company strategy
When hiring, start by thinking about the company rather than the employee. According to Tracy Arno at Essence Talent Solutions, the key is to ask the right questions. Why has this role come up? How does the role fit into the organization’s workflow? Where are the gaps in the organization that need to be filled? What objectives will this person need to meet to be successful? Those questions are relevant for hiring at any level in the organization.
Staffing needs stem from this insight. If you are replacing an existing employee, consider how the organization has changed since you hired the outgoing employee. If you are adding a position or plan to change the role, what would an ideal employee be able to accomplish in this position? Define the role in a way that works for your business.
As Arno describes, roles often change because of new leadership or restructuring. “Even administrative assistants change their processes, as they don’t have to be on the phone throughout the whole day anymore. It’s better to ask what characteristics a person needs to do a good job.”
“It comes down to whether management is open minded about improving the way responsibilities are allocated,” Arno explains. “‘Questioning the status quo can open a can of worms, and it can spill over to identify gaps in other roles or changes that should be made. The point is not that you create more work for yourself. The point is that the organization has already outgrown your staffing structure. If you don’t adapt, you will have a real problem.”
Examine the big picture and map out the talent you have next to the workflows you need completed. What does it look like today, what are the gaps, and what is going to be needed in the future?
Filling an evolving role
“What happens is that as a company grows, you start departmentalizing. You really have to examine the big picture and map out the talent you have next to the workflows you need completed,” Arno explains. “What does it look like today, what are the gaps, and what is going to be needed in the future?” Other considerations emerge when mapping existing employees next to workflows. Consider how long particular employees will be in each position. “If an existing employee is retiring, you have more than just performance to think about,” Arno explains. “You also have succession. That goes for the owner as well,” she explains. “If the owner is planning to sell in five years, you may need to add people to the management team.”
A higher-level view of the organization and consideration for factors such as succession can help increase the chances that new employees will have a longer career with an employer. Arno points out that the most desirable employers can illustrate a career path. “We’re hiring for today, but what does it mean for tomorrow? Employees don’t just want to be a controller, they want to eventually move into a CFO role. So as your company evolves, structure the organizational chart in a way that has steps for a career and also functions for the business.”
A reality check
Once you know what the company needs, the recruitment process needs to consider the nature of the work environment to which the desired employee is best suited. Arno explains how many employers misunderstand their situation. “Leaders in business can be unaware of the culture of their own organization. They really don’t understand their own corporate culture. Everyone talks about a culture shift and driving a positive culture, but they need to be honest to themselves first.”
Saskatchewan’s labour market has changed and now reflects national hiring trends. Gone are the days of employers saying, “why should I hire you?” Now, employees ask, “why should I work for you?” Employees want to make a contribution, they value transparency, and they seek a meaningful connection. Employees are driving culture now, not employers. It really comes down to fit. Employees perform at their best and tend to stay longer when they are energized by the corporate culture and personally relate to the company’s values.
The path forward
“I sometimes get pushback from employers,” Arno explains. “They say it’s too time consuming to think carefully about each position before posting a job. No way. Think about the alternative. How much time do you spend managing people who should never have been hired? How much does it cost to hire an employee who only lasts three months? There are out-of-pocket costs but also opportunity costs. Your company is three to six months behind if a hire does not work out.”
As an employer, have the courage and fortitude to question every single hire. Don’t just push out a job description and hope for a pile of resumes. Start by asking why the role has emerged, define what the objectives of the role are, identify what skills and abilities are needed for the person to be successful over the long term, prepare the job description accordingly, and use a process that seeks the people who are the best fit.
It’s a different approach to the search process, but results in a strong workforce that can help your company reach its potential.
First published in the September 2018 edition of The Business Advisor.