- Recruiting staff
- Finding the right employee
- Finding the Right Skills
- The Benefits of e-Learning
- Time-saving for businesspeople
If you can’t do it all by yourself, you’re going to have to think about taking on staff but if you’ve never managed people before, you may need some pointers on how to find, engage and then look after your employees.
As Mrs Beeton would say, first catch your hare! Given the rate of unemployment, you’d think that finding the right person to do the job you want doing would be a piece of cake, but that is not often the case.
Before you even think about interviews, you need to draw up a person specification profile and list the ‘essential’ and ‘desirable’ attributes your ideal candidate would have.
Then, from the hundreds of CVs or letters you get in response to your advertisement, you need to draw up a shortlist, which should have no more than five names on it. If you are finding it hard to whittle the list down to five, a short pre-interview telephone chat with the candidates might help.
At all times keep the Equality Act 2010 in mind, as if you are deemed to be discriminating against anyone on the grounds of race, age, religious beliefs or sexual orientation, you could be landed with a law suit.
Do your interviews allow the best candidates to shine?
You will eventually get to the interview stage and you should have a list of questions drawn up that are designed to obtain relevant information about the applicant's experience and skills, check facts, test achievement and assess aptitude and potential. However, start by:
Putting your candidate at ease
Begin informally and make your candidate comfortable with some small talk, as they will no doubt be nervous. Give a brief introduction to the role, perhaps asking them what they know about the organisation as a starting point.
Look for their strengths
Remember that the best person for the job may not be the most vocal. It is in your interests to discover the strengths of a reserved or nervous interviewee, so use their CV to pick out points of interest. An example might be: “I understand your last role was with J Smith. What kind of projects did you oversee?”
Get a clear picture
If the candidate is being vague, try to draw out specifics to see how they relate to the role. Ask questions to which it is impossible to answer ‘no’ (often referred to as the 5 Ws) to get precise answers. These begin with: who, why, when, where or what. Examples could be: “What steps did you take to improve the situation?” or “When might you apply that experience?”
You may need to ask some sensitive questions, such as when enquiring about a gap in a candidate’s CV. Avoid judgemental statements and make sure your tone is neutral.
As we have said, take all sensible measures to avoid legal action. Please note that questions pertaining to relationship status, religious/political affiliations and whether the candidate plans to have children are not suitable and may result in your going to court.
Make sure you record points of interest, as you may not remember them later.
Make sure you emphasise the benefits of the job. If the interviewee is a strong candidate, they will receive other offers. Don’t assume they’ll take the job if you don’t sell its plus points.
Ask the candidate if they have any further questions. This is an excellent chance to see if they’ve researched your company. Lastly, explain when and how candidates will hear if they’ve been successful.
The right staff are vital to your business, so make sure that when you’re recruiting, you use the best means possible to pick them…
Start with a clear job description
Specify skills, experience and personal qualities. This allows candidates to present themselves effectively, and gives you a checklist to assess them thoroughly.
Although salary and benefits will be important to applicants, remember that they may also be motivated by training opportunities, the chance to progress and to take on new responsibilities.
There are many ways to find applicants. You can use word of mouth, such as by making sure that all your contacts know you are looking for a new member of staff.
Adverts online, or with national/local press, trade publications and radio can all offer a high response rate. Recruitment agencies, despite high fees, offer a valuable service by saving you the time taken to filter applications and are all up to speed on current employment legislation.
You should have no more than five candidates in your final shortlist. Only include applications that meet your full list of essential and desirable criteria.
Consider who can best contribute to the selection process and select your interview panel accordingly. Remember that the larger the panel, the greater the pressure on your interviewee.
Your questions should be pertinent to your selection criteria, such as. “Can you give an example of when you managed a project from start to finish?” Listen to their response attentively and do not interrupt.
Assume nothing, and follow up their responses if you want further information. Ask about inconsistencies in their CV and interview. Assess hard skills with tests if necessary e.g. audio typing, use of computer software.
Use your selection criteria
Your business will benefit from a new employee who complements your department and brings the skills you’re looking for. Do not base your decision purely on personal liking or gut feeling.
Verify references before offering the job. Make sure that the information on the CV is confirmed by the reference. Remember, if you suffer loss from employing a person on the basis of a misleading reference, you can take legal action.
Protect yourself legally
Some people are automatically entitled to work in the UK. Others may have restrictions on how long they can stay, whether they can work or the type of work they can do. You should check the entitlement to work in the UK of every worker you plan to employ - regardless of their race, ethnic or national origin, colour or nationality.
If you fail to do this and employ someone who is found to be an illegal worker, you may face a civil penalty, an unlimited fine and/or a criminal conviction if you are found to be knowingly employing an illegal migrant worker.
Employees with the right training and expertise can enhance the growth and success of your business.
What practical steps can you take to ensure that you can find suitably skilled staff?
- Identify your needs
- Ask yourself if your needs absolutely require extra staff. There may be more economically viable options for you
- Appreciate the skills you have
Regular staff appraisals will help you identify the skills and ambitions of your current workforce. Training and encouraging staff development will motivate workers as well as cut down the costs of new recruitment. It will also increase your attractiveness to new recruits, who will recognise your commitment to their personal growth.
Existing staff also understand your business and can enable new ideas and processes to be easily integrated into your current procedures.
Cutting training costs
Training can cost money and time. There are a number of options that can help with this, such as the Skills Funding Agency or learndirect, which provide financial support, help and advice on training.
Also, e-learning is available for a wide variety of subjects and online courses can often be more easily fitted around work.
Encourage trainees to share their findings with other relevant workers and to make positive changes to the way they or the business works based on what they have learnt.
“Whatever business or technical area you want to strengthen, you can access resources as long as you have an Internet connection.”
Keeping your small business going is demanding and varied work!
It’s important to have a wide skills base when you don’t have the resources to hire consultants and third party specialists. And whether you’re pitching to a new client, updating your website or staying on top of invoices, you need confidence in your knowledge and experience. If you don’t have the right training, you can place your business at risk but fitting in courses can be a drain on working hours and finances.
However, there is an answer – a cost-effective, flexible route to learning. Computer-based training (or “e-learning”) is the ideal solution to your training needs.
Training for wherever you are
A range of distance learning services, such The Open University, learndirect and Mindleaders, offer all the courses you could wish for. Academic subjects all the way up to postgraduate level, professional training and courses for pleasure are all catered for in a computer-based format. Depending on the course you select, you may be accredited with a recognised qualification, or provided with a certificate verifying your course completion.
Also, many providers issue resources on video and CD-ROMs, while the most sophisticated are available online to download on a subscription basis, keeping files small and allowing you to access them as soon as possible.
Once you’ve enrolled and paid for your course, you are the free to access the resources as often as you want.
For small business needs
e-learning is an exciting means of improving your business, whether through honing your management skills, learning HTML or getting to grips with accounts. With options available for different levels of experience you can be sure of progressing at a rate suited to your requirements.
Most importantly, its flexibility allows you to train and still meet the demands of your business. You can choose your study hours to suit you – at manageable times, around your work.
Working hard but not getting results? It might take just a few simple changes for your efforts – and those of your staff – to really pay off…
Early to bed and early to rise?
Are you at your best in the morning or evening? If you know when you’re most focused, you can prioritise your work accordingly.
Set proper boundaries
When you need to focus on an important project, delegate call taking and administrative tasks. Make it clear you must not be disturbed. Overcome the urge to be accommodating - say “no” when requests are unreasonable.
Take time out
The human attention span is approximately 40 minutes. You might want to keep your nose to the grindstone until you’ve finished, but take regular breaks and your mind will be at its most active.
Make the most of modern technology
If you have an urgent task to complete, use voicemail to take your calls, and ask colleagues to forward concerns to you by email which you can respond to at a less pressing time. Set aside fixed times for checking voicemail and email. Try to keep it to half an hour, and no more than twice a day.
Worried about bothering your staff? Hate losing control of a project? Stuck in old habits? Don’t do work that you could delegate. Stop! Your team is there to help your business function – use them!
Enhance your environment
Stale air and too much staring at a screen could be bad for your health. Make sure your office has efficient ventilation. Prevent headaches and eyestrain by using anti-reflection screens. Alternate activities so you can take regular breaks from your PC.
Keep your desk and work equipment organised. Looking for notes on a messy desktop is stressful and wastes time. Your telephone, regularly used files and diary should be within easy reach.
When you’ve finished a task, do something you enjoy. Whether it’s a bar of chocolate, your favourite TV show or a night out you can motivate yourself with a reward.
For information of users: This material is published for the information of clients. It provides only an overview of the regulations in force at the date of publication, and no action should be taken without consulting the detailed legislation or seeking professional advice. Therefore, neither the authors nor the firm can accept responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the material.
© Copyright JE Consulting 2014. All rights reserved.