A female business owner smiles as she stands and shakes hands with a female employee after addressing staffing changes.

How Entrepreneurs Address Staffing Changes


Discover staffing strategies business owners can utilize to address staffing changes, expansion, and more.

Staffing is always a challenge, but it can be particularly difficult for new businesses. In a startup environment, entrepreneurs seek to put together the best possible team, even as they develop operations, push sales efforts and ramp up marketing. Adding to the pressure: hiring can be a job in itself, and making the right choices are critical to the company’s success.

Here are some of the most common challenges you may face as you build the staff of your new business—along with some ideas for how to tackle them.

Understand the Talent You’re Seeking

Finding the right employees means doing your homework. To attract the right candidates, you have to understand the kind of people who typically fill the roles you have open.

Start by having a clear idea of what you need the person to do. You should be able to describe their job in some detail, including the procedures they’ll follow, the tools they’ll use and the environment where they’ll work. Think of it this way: performing basic mechanical tasks is one thing, but doing it 30 feet in the air while clipped to a utility pole is another.

You should also know the best way to connect with the type of candidate you’re looking for. For example, you’re more likely to reach managers with 25 years of experience on industry websites or through your area chamber of commerce. Approaching candidates through text-messaging would be more appropriate for younger workers, who pay more attention to mobile devices and are more comfortable being approached by them with job opportunities.

One more thing: Remember that even in a down economy, the best workers are in demand. Before you begin looking for candidates, research what other employers in your industry, and your region, offer for similar jobs in terms of both pay and benefits. That way, you can go beyond meeting the job seeker’s basic expectations and stand out by offering flexibility, training and perks that may not cost much money, but can be surprisingly attractive.

Workplace Culture Counts

Group dynamics matter in small companies. When individuals mesh into a team, they work more efficiently, their productivity increases and their absence rate goes down. So, you have to consider each candidate’s personality and get a sense of how they’ll fit into the dynamics of the team.

One way is to involve your current employees in the hiring process. Have your team members meet the candidates, and have that meeting involve more than a handshake. Coffee, even via videoconference, can be a good way to break the ice and encourage conversation. Afterwards, sound them out about whether they can see themselves working with the candidate.

At the same time, get a sense of each candidate’s reaction to your team. Hearing from both sides can help you identify potential issues you might not otherwise anticipate. And always probe to learn how candidates have worked with others in the past. Understanding the environments in which they succeeded or struggled will help you make the right choice for both your company and the job seeker.

Avoid Feeling Rushed

When small companies have an open role, they feel the pain acutely. A shorthanded team means more work for everyone, more pressure and longer hours.

But resist the temptation to rush. Hiring the wrong person can cause even more problems than you’d have if the role remained open. A bad cultural fit can disrupt the entire team, while a hire without the right skills might slow production and cause quality control issues. You may even lose the person, which means you’re right back where you started.

Have a process in place to guide your hiring, and always follow it. For instance, a high-level process might include creating the job description, determining where to find the appropriate candidates, telephone screening, in-person interviews and conducting reference and background checks.

The process doesn’t have to be complicated or intricate, but it should provide a checklist that ensures you're taking the steps necessary to identify the right candidates and complete your due diligence.

Focus on Training

Every new employee needs training, even if it’s on simple company procedures or how to use the alarm system. So develop an "onboarding plan" that details the time and resources necessary for getting new hires up to speed.

Your plan should include equipment and procedures employees should know, plus the people they need to meet. Schedule time for managers or other employees to help familiarize new workers with both the physical workplace and the ins and outs of how the company prefers to get things done. In some cases, online resources may be available to reduce the time needed from other employees. Many equipment manufacturers provide how-two videos on their websites, which can give new workers an idea of how to handle different aspects of their job.

Make Employee Retention a Priority

Finally, think about retention as a part of your recruiting process. That may sound counterintuitive, but turnover is more expensive than many business owners realize, often running into thousands of dollars for every employee who departs. When an employee leaves the company, productivity often dips, stress increases and training costs are incurred (again) when their replacement is finally put in place.

One of the most effective ways to boost retention is to champion a professional, supportive culture. That means communicating openly with your workforce, and doing so frequently. Also, check in with individual employees on a regular basis. This way, they’ll see that you’re interested in hearing what they have to say as individuals.

Of course, competitive salary and benefits are table stakes for candidates, but also pay attention to learning and growth opportunities. According to LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report, 94% of employees say they’d remain longer at a company that invested in their learning and development.

Successful hiring involves more than finding a person who can do a particular job for a particular wage. In addition to having the right skills, the best employees have experience, know the industry you’re in and will understand how your company works. Recruiting and hiring the right employees is especially challenging in the pressure-cooker world of a new business, but by understanding the job to be done, organizing the search and following a process, business owners can attract and hire the right workers—and keep them on board for years to come.

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