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22 May 2014

Grow Your Workforce

Growing your workforce can be one of the most challenging aspects of running a business, and I see more business owners who have got it wrong than have got it right. In fact, many business owners have stopped growing their teams altogether because they have made so many mistakes with recruitment and it has cost them so much time, money and effort that it they cannot face going through the process again. The truth of the matter is that you cannot grow your business without growing your team, and if you want more out of your business, you have to learn how to put more in to recruiting and developing your staff.

The problem stems from the fact that business owners generally recruit too late and therefore in haste. They do so when there is a role that needs somebody with greater capability than they have in-house and they need to fill that gap quickly. An advert goes out, interviews get done and the best available candidate at the time gets hired. It is almost as if the need to recruit comes as a surprise to them. But it’s no surprise that the person that they hire often turns out to be the wrong person for the job.

To avoid the problem of employing the wrong person, the first step in the process should happen way before you actually need to hire somebody new. Every business should have a business plan that shows what it is trying to grow in to, a bit like a blue print for a house you want to build. You would not start building the house without first drawing up the plans for what it will look like when it’s finished. Likewise, you need a clear vision of what your business looks like when it’s fully grown.

The business plan should incorporate financial targets for your sales and profits and from that you can work out the number of people you are going to need to achieve those targets. The plan should also incorporate an organisation chart, showing what the team will look like when the business is finished. Obviously you will not be able to put names to the roles at this stage, because the finish point will be 5-10 years hence and you don’t know who you will be employing then. (You may even decide that your name is not on the organisation chart!) This chart will be made up of key roles such as MD, Finance Director, Head of Marketing etc. Each role will then have a set of responsibilities and the lines of communication can be plotted so you know will be responsible to whom in the organisation.

So now you have an idea of what the business will look like and the type of skills we will need to run it in the future. The challenge in the early years of growing your business is that all those roles are always there, it is just that you have only a few people to do them, so everything is a compromise. The quicker you can grow sales, the quicker profits will grow and the quicker you will be able to take people on to do the work and fill the planned roles.
Having this long term plan means that you can undertake recruitment in a more measured and strategic way. This will give you a greater chance of recruiting the right people who will be an asset to your business rather than a headache to you and a drain on your resources.
I always stress to my clients that it is equally if not more important to recruit people with the right attitude as the right skills, qualifications or experience. Skills can be taught and developed but somebody’s attitude is very difficult to change, so I find it preferable to recruit people with the right attitude into the business and train and develop them to move into higher skilled positions.

Winston Churchill said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference,” and this is very true. An employee with a “bad” attitude can disrupt the workplace and upset your other staff, suppliers and customers as well as make your life hell. Great skills will never make up for a poor attitude.

It’s vital therefore that you identify the specific attitudes that you want in an employee and that in the recruitment/interview process, you have steps that will enable the candidates to demonstrate that they possess the required attitudes. The sort of attitudes that you might consider important in an employee are positivity, motivation, resilience, innovation and collaboration – it depends on many factors such as your business culture, your team, your leadership style etc.

(NB: attitudes are much less easy to assess through the recruitment/interview process than skills and qualifications. However, we use a great recruitment process that does facilitate the assessment of these factors – contact me if you’d like our Recruitment Cheat Sheet sent through to you.)

Now you have your attitudinal criteria and strategic plan in mind, you can be looking out for potential future team members when you are networking or meeting with suppliers, customers and other business contacts. When you find a great candidate, bring them on board and make sure that you work to retain, develop and reward them with a view to future progression within the business. Regular training courses, mentoring and performance reviews will be needed to ensure their skills and confidence grow. In this way you will develop a pool of “home grown talent” to draw on, who have the advantage of knowing the intricacies of the business, the team dynamics and the relationships with suppliers and customers that would take external candidates time to get to grips with. Nurturing your in-house talent has the advantage of building their loyalty, as they will appreciate your investment in them and will be ready to step up into new roles and continue to grow your business for you.

So go on – take Action and start building your team talent now!

This post was written by Kevin Stansfield, award-winning Business Coach and MD at ActionCOACH Solent.  Contact Kevin or any of the team at ACtionCOACH Solent to discuss your business growth challenges.