The Keys to Finding Good Help

Audrey had been looking for a Field Supervisor for months. She’d taken referrals from friends and family, posted at the colleges and on Craig’s list. So far, no one had met Audrey’s expectations. I was concerned that she would become discouraged and hire the wrong person to fill the job or would give up and continue to spend her own precious time doing the supervisor’s job. So I helped her see why she wasn’t attracting the right candidates.

The first thing she did was write out exactly what she wanted from this person. From that she created a specific and clear job description that was able to attract the right candidates. Once she posted it she finally found someone she believes will meet her expectations on the job.

The success of a small business is dependent on having good help. Without it, the business just cannot go to the next level.

Many owners have not had to hire or supervise anyone before, so they have no frame of reference for doing it the first time. It’s an art and a science, to which I don’t proclaim expert status, but over my years as a business leadership coach I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t.

Here are the steps I recommend for attracting and keeping good help. It doesn’t matter if it’s an employee or someone hired on a contract basis, the principles are the same.

Know what you want and need.

I’d suggest you take a look at your entire business structure before deciding what you want and need. Where do you have gaps to be filled? The job or jobs should be organized to fill the gaps.

What tasks are you ready to hand off to a trusted helper who has an acceptable level of expertise? What is the personality of the person you believe will best fit this role? This is especially important if you’ll be working closely with the person.

Action: Jot down what you want in stream of consciousness form (i.e. experience in my industry, experience managing a decentralized staff. Be sure to include the personal traits you seek (i.e. someone I can trust; someone who follows through, etc.)

Write a Job Description with built-in accountability.

Write a summary of the job and how it fits into the business. Then use bullet points to pick up the tasks and qualifying criteria identified in your preliminary draft. Regardless of whether an employee or an outsourced service, include a statement of how an assessment of service will be made based on completion of the job as described in the Job Description. For an outsourced service it would constitute deliverables. The form might be different, but the content is the same for staff and outsourced help.

Action: Draft a job description from your earlier notes. Give the job a meaningful title, write the summary, add the bullet points and the assessment section and it’s done.

Let everyone know what you’re looking for.

Once you know exactly what you’re looking for you can tell everyone you know and everyone you meet. Be clear about the critical qualities so they’ll refer the right people. Post it to the appropriate online bulletin boards and other job posting systems.

Action: Make a list of people you know you’d like to tell about what you’re seeking. Contact those people by phone or e-mail to give them your update. Plan to make it a part of your conscious communication any time you’re talking about business.

Pre-qualify

Know what you want; know what you don’t want. Use that as the criteria to review resumes or proposals. If you’re not finding any that pass the pre-qualification process, it’s a clue you need to refine the job description.

Action: Have your pre-qualification list ready for when interest starts coming in. Follow-up only with those that pass the pre-qual. If none pass, update your criteria and try again.

Qualify

Here’s where the decisions must be made. Do a check of your original criteria against what your final candidate(s) offer. Is it enough? If not, you should keep looking. It’s better to continue things as they are a bit longer than to hire the wrong person. I’m a big believer in Jim Collins’ philosophy in his best seller book, Good to Great: it’s critical that you hire the right people.

Once you believe you’ve found the right person, find out what motivates him and be sure you can and are willing to provide that motivation. If you do you’ll have a satisfied and productive employee. For more on this subject read my Business Success Article, “How to Attract and Keep Productive Employees”.

Action: Finalize the terms with your candidate. A win-win arrangement is always best. If you haven’t done so before find out what motivates the person. It might be the potential for profit sharing, a possible bigger role in the future, flexibility and freedom in their schedule. It’s now your job to provide whatever that is. If they are satisfied they will be free to spend their time focusing on the job at hand. It’s just human nature.

Listen to your instincts. If something troubles you about a candidate either resolve it, or pass on that candidate. Chances are you’ll find out what it is once they start. You don’t want to go there.

Get the person on board and on the team.

Many small business owners drop the ball by not integrating new staff properly. It’s easy to just dump a job onto a new person with little instruction or orientation. And if the owner doesn’t know what motivates the individual it’s a recipe for dissatisfaction.

Action: Make sure the new hire understands his position on the team, what is expected of him, and frequency and method of reporting. If, like Audrey, you hire a Field Supervisor to maintain productivity of your field staff, a method of regular written reporting is the best way to know what’s going on in the field at all times. It provides the discipline and structure that every successful business must have.

Set Clear Goals and Milestones

The new person needs to know the vision, mission and goals of the business owner. They have to buy in and feel they have an important part in making it happen. This will go a long way toward their feeling valuable to the team and having pride in what they do. It may sound corny, but it happens to be true.

Action: Make sure they know your company goals. And have the employee set goals for himself in coordinateion with the company goals. When all the pieces fit together well the business can work like a well oiled machine.

Finally, set milestones with timeframes where performance will be compared against job description and achievement of personal goals. Follow-up.

Provide Encouragement and Review

Don’t wait for the annual review to give this person feedback on how they’re doing. They need guidance and know they have your support. Definitely set up a regular time to meet with them, even if by phone, as a checkpoint against desired goals.

Perfection doesn’t exist in anyone who is human. Errors will be made. Help them learn from their mistakes. Encouragement helps more than criticism. Of course, if errors become a way of life, it’s time to take a harder look at the situation.

Action: It’s definitely worth your time spending at least half an hour a week reviewing work, answering questions and giving feedback for the first couple of months or whatever you consider the probationary period. Doing this will let you know early on whether or not you’ve made the right decision. If not, you haven’t wasted a lot of time and resources before cutting your losses and moving on.

Bottom line: the clearer you are about what you want and the clearer your communication about expectations, the closer you’ll come to getting it. Be patient and know that the right person is out there for you.