How to recruit - and retain - great people

Contributor - Ben Dyer

A group of great people smiling and clapping their hands

Wouldn't it be good if your staff always did a great job for your clients? Wouldn't it be fantastic if they sorted out problems before they landed on your desk - or in your ear? If they were smart and always looking to improve things, your business would succeed with much less effort on your part. It is possible to make this dream a reality, as Benjamin Dyer of Powered Now explains

I've worked in organisations where there is great team work, although it takes ongoing commitment and lots of hard work to get there. But it's very much worth it. Here are my top tips.

Recruit carefully

You only get great staff by recruiting really carefully.

When you're under pressure and trying to recruit, it can be tempting to settle for the mediocre, or even worse. That's always a bad idea. Poor staff will upset your customers and lead to refunds and disputes. They can't be trusted, and create mayhem if you aren't constantly watching and managing them.

They are much less productive, too, so even if they're paid less you're still getting a bad deal. Other staff get demotivated, thinking: if these losers can get away with such bad work, why am I working so hard?

So, recruit with care. Here are some tips that I have used in my company:

  • Look at their track record. Poor employees rarely last long in a job. Multiple short stays are a sure sign of issues. Previous promotions and pay rises are an indication of a good employee.
  • Remember that after two years, someone smart and willing but inexperienced will be smart and willing and have experience too. Someone without those key skills won't make the same progress.
  • Always take up references. Try to talk on the phone and keep them talking. Most people want to be as positive as they can - the longer you chat to them, the more likely you are to hear the truth.
  • If you can, bring candidates in for a day's work before you offer a job. That enables you to gauge them better and see if they fit in with the team.

Keep talking

Keep your lines of communication with staff wide open. Take time to explain your priorities and the details of jobs - they can't read your mind. One of the biggest complaints in companies is "nobody told me that".

When a job has been done well, feed back quickly. Great performance warrants immediate praise. When you spot poor performance, think of it as the person needing help. Talk to them quickly and try to understand the issue. This gives them the chance to improve, and for you to understand any special circumstances such as trouble at home.

Never leave things to fester while you get more and more frustrated - that doesn't help anyone. Confrontation is hard, but letting things slide is worse in the long run.

Keep them motivated

People will usually be motivated if they feel they're being treated fairly and can take pride in their job. Following the advice above on communication is half the battle.

Remember to give your praise in public, and save any criticism for a private meeting. Publicly humiliating people is the most demotivating thing you can do. Also, it will go down badly with other staff, who may be embarrassed and feel sympathy for the person on the end of it.

Make criticism constructive, and never give staff a hard time to make yourself feel better. Never say "this is my business" - you want your employees to treat it as their own. Have an attitude of saying yes to occasional special requests if you possibly can. It builds loyalty.

Be sensible about salary

Funnily enough, a high salary may initially attract people but it's not a huge motivator. What is a problem is when people feel they aren't being paid fairly - that's a huge turn-off.

Also watch comparisons between salaries. It's best to adjust any unfair discrepancies over time, rather than take advantage of people who aren't pushy. If they find out they are being underpaid, they will probably never trust you again.

In conclusion

Staff are the key asset in your business. Building a great team is a shortcut to building a great company. The better your team, the easier your success will be - that's why it's so vital to spend time thinking about and acting on putting a great team together.

Written by Benjamin Dyer, co-founder and CEO of Powered Now Invoicing App, helping tradespeople to simplify paperwork and save time.

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Ben Dyer

Ben Dyer is CEO of Powered Now, provider of invoicing, estimating and scheduling software for small businesses. Ben was previously CEO of SellerDeck which he joined in 2008, after working for Xyratex, BSkyB and BAE Systems.

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