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Tips on Staffing Appropriately

Julianna Davies explores techniques to make hiring for any business, both large and small, effective and long lasting. She delves deeper into a topic covered by Small Business Can about every company’s non-negotiables, focusing more on the process of finding employees who are both capable of the positions’ responsibilities and a good fit with the company’s culture.

The Trouble Filling the Room With Talent

During the preliminary stages of any start-up or small business, appropriate staffing is arguably the most important step. Any company is likely to make its largest impact in the weeks and months that immediately follow an official launch, and this impact is directly linked to the men and women chosen to represent the company.

According to Roundpegg, a company that specializes in finding appropriate applicants for specific employers, hiring is “just better than the flip of a coin.” Roughly 50% of people hired at any given company will vacate their position by the two-year mark, usually because of personal conflicts with the company’s team dynamics, management style or workplace culture. Whatever the reasoning, they are no longer that company’s employee – and finding new candidates for the position can be expensive and time-consuming.

…And Getting it To Stay Put
And in many cases, because job-seekers often seem more impressive during the early stages of their employment, the cycle is doomed to repeat itself. “Recognizing someone with the chops to do the job is easy; you’re likely a functional expert in the role for which you’re hiring,” the site says. “But evaluating ‘fit’ is tough because everyone is on their best behavior for the first few dates.” Ultimately, these difficulties distract company leaders and managers from their more important goal: creating a business that thrives and endures.

Theories that Make the Impossible Possible
Many theories abound on the subject of successful hiring techniques, but most place a great deal of importance on getting to know the candidate extensively during the interview/screening process. A 2011 survey by Development Dimensions International and Electronic Recruiting Exchange showed that organizations with “the most effective hiring policies” utilized four core strategies:

  • Conducting interviews during which the applicant is asked for detailed descriptions of his/her job skills.
  • Using an automated system to screen candidate resumes.
  • Assessing the applicant’s level of interest in company values and culture, and disassociating this from their level of interest in the position for which they are being considered.
  • Simulating specific tasks that are essential to the position and fairly evaluating the quality of the candidate’s ‘work’.

These techniques conserve time and money, and allow employers to take a thorough look at each applicant’s unique set of strengths and competencies. But most importantly, they demonstrate how well the candidate will ‘fit’ with the existing workplace culture. For this reason, many companies tailor the interview/screening process to. Online shoe brand Zappo, for instance, asks questions about an applicant’s weirdness. Tech companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple, on the other hand, include logic puzzles and IQ questions to gauge the applicant’s reasoning and critical thinking skills. The bottom line: employees who are satisfied with their job and comfortable within their workplace environment are ultimately more productive and better suited to represent their company.

The Pains of Bad Policy
Just as effective hiring practices can boost a company, poor techniques can greatly hurt one’s business in many ways. Jay Goltz, a Chicago business owner who pens a column for The New York Times, notes that ‘bad hiring’ costs businesses a good deal of capital – easily hundreds of thousands of dollars when unemployment and lost business are factored. Managers who neglect to check an applicant’s references, gauge skills and evaluate his or her ‘fit’ often do so because they are rushed and assume hiring someone quickly will help their company.

The Benefit of Making the Inconsequential Important 
But not so fast, says Goltz, who knows firsthand the negative consequences of hurrying through these key preliminary stages. “Over the years,” he wrote in March 2011, “I have learned to pay more attention to the details,” such as “checking on references and keeping an eye on customer service.” Though seemingly inconsequential, these aspects “have long-term and spiraling effects on the performance of a company.”

Most experts agree that managers need not worry about hiring people who seem impressive, only to realize later that they were just on their best behavior during the interview/screening period. The factors that contribute to a successful hire – including attitude, skill set and ‘fit’ within the company – are easily discernible during these early stages. The trick is knowing how to detect them.

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