How to perfect your small business recruitment strategy

Ron Pearson

There's an infinitely long list of reasons why running a business is difficult. But, the one most frequently overlooked and yet is often the biggest headache, is people. Most don't start their entrepreneurial journey to manage people. It always seems to be an afterthought, but it's essential to success - no one can complete the journey on their own. As lovely as it would be to hire a People or HR manager early on in your business, cash flow and priorities are unlikely to facilitate it, and thus, this role will fall to you for the time being.

Managing people requires you to keep an eye on multiple moving parts. One of the trickiest of those parts? Recruitment. The hiring process is expensive, time-consuming and disappointingly often accompanied by a low success rate.  

This recruitment guide might just help...

Do I have to take on staff? Employees vs contractors

One decision to make when hiring for each role in your business is choosing between hiring employees and bringing in contractors.

The benefits of hiring a contractor

Contractors can be great assets in your early days. Say you need some design work done to get your website and business cards created - choose a contractor. As you don't need a full-time employee for that work (yet) it keeps monthly recurring costs low. However, contractors are more expensive so will impact your cash flow.

As your business evolves and grows you as a business owner may need this service full-time, and that should be the tipping point for when you look permanently hire for the role.

This of course, will then make you an employer which carries many extra responsibilities as a business owner. There are conditions that, legally, you need to have in place for your employees.

For example:

  • Statutory sick pay
  • Statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave
  • Minimum notice periods for termination of employment
  • Protection against unfair dismissal
  • The right to request flexible working
  • Time off for emergencies
  • Statutory redundancy pay

So hiring is more than just the monthly salary. It is essential to take into account whether or not these are responsibilities that you can fulfill, before you take the leap.

The benefits of having employees in (small) business recruitment

Essentially, an employee is a (foreseeably) permanent worker, in a contracted role, for who you have several duties as an employer. Your relationship with a contractor, on the other hand, would be mostly based on the exchange of a service, likely one-off or short-term.

They're familiar with the businesses they work for

The problem with using freelancers is the volume of initial discussions and back and forth required to get a project done. Say you take on a graphic designer to design a brochure for you. Well, that designer is going to need background information on your company, they'll need to chat with you about your brand, the previous work you've done, and the broader context of this new piece. In some cases, this can lead to you fully briefing your contractor on your industry, the ins and outs of how your company fits into the marketplace and a whole host of other information, for a one-time job. Not ideal.

An employee requires the same on-boarding, but they only require it once. From there, they'll evolve with the company, they'll be up-to-date on the latest changes, trends, the industry and your position within it. The knowledge that one employee can harbor, should they stick around, is invaluable.

You've got the power

When you have an employee working for you, although you may want to refrain from exercising the power too much, legally, you have the right to dictate exactly how your employee's work is done, something you won't be able to tell a contractor.

Although, it must be said that allowing your employees to take control and flourish by pursuing their ideas and processes, we think, yields the best results. You did hire them for their expertise and experience, after all.

Watch them grow

Employees are kind of like plants (stick with us here). You can keep them for a while, appreciate how great they are and the fantastic job they do, but they might start withering if you don't tend to them. Eventually, if you continue to not look after them, they will be done and you'll need to get a new one. It sounds obvious but when you are juggling a million balls as a small business it is so easy to do. But when you only have a small team, it hurts the most.

Grow your employees. Expand their skill sets and have them move up in your business. Not only will this fuel the fire inside each of your employees, but it'll also create a culture built around one core idea: growth. This will help your retention, two-fold. When your employees love working for you the people around them, be it friends or LinkedIn Connections, will recognize this success and want in.

How do you market recruitment - find your perfect recruitment strategies

Attracting people to your business can be tricky. Larger companies typically seduce the top talent and will pay for it! So how do you stand out and make sure you are in the running in a highly competitive, candidate short marketplace?

Firstly, you need to go where their eyes are, this could be your website as a careers page, recruitment websites even job postings and job ads in newspapers and magazines can be an option too, depending on your audience and what type of jobseekers it is you are trying to attract.

Nowadays, a huge market for candidates for recruitment is, unsurprisingly, on social media. It is a cornerstone of recruiting methods. If you haven't done so already, then you'll need to create company pages on a variety of relevant platforms and start advertising your vacant positions there. This, of course, doubles up as a marketing space for your organization - your shop window for prospective customers and workers alike so it is valuable time well spent!

Additionally, you can ask your employees to share the positions on their social media, something that's especially effective if they have a large network on LinkedIn.

Whilst we are on this - the most effective form of hiring is recommendations. Ultimately this will always set you apart from any other firm. Setting up a referral scheme is a great way to motivate your current employees to recommend people they know. Simply offer an incentive for your employees to earn once someone they recommended gets taken on and passes their probation period.

Ask yourself what you have to offer

People rarely move roles for money - although it is a HUGE factor, there are often other bigger drivers as to why they are looking. Understanding these will ensure you stand ahead of the crowds. Ask yourself the following questions.

What's your business's mission?

What passion are you looking for in potential employees? Do you have a social responsibility goal? Now more than ever job hunters, like consumers, are searching for brands that help them feel like they're making a difference to the world and share their values. 87% of people think that a business's success shouldn’t only be solely based on financial performance. Recruiting based on a common interest in your goal will leave you with a highly motivated, higher-performing team.

What's your culture like?

You're quite right in expecting a high level of professionalism and for your team to roll up their sleeves when they've got deadlines, but don't forget that it's a two-way street. As an increasing number of articles on the culture of the likes of Google, Spotify, and Netflix (whose Culture presentation you can download here) - the expectations of and value placed on workplace culture have increased.

You don't have to go down the free-beer and ping-pong table route if you don't want to - in fact, we'd strongly advise against the ping-pong table unless you have a good soundproof room in your office. But team events, workshop days, and hack days (if you are in tech), can be huge morale boosters for your staff, and talking about these on your social channels will be extremely attractive to job seekers. Salary is a huge driver for most, but a more rounded and personal experience at work is now an expectation.

What development opportunities do you offer?

Having clocked up years of educational or practical experience, it's natural, especially for younger workers, to search for opportunities holistically and veer towards those that allow them to continue to develop and grow.

Plus, the benefits for you are twofold, not only will people be more likely to choose your company, but secondly, they're more likely to remain with you once they're hired! By showing potential employees that you're willing to invest in their futures, you'll inspire them to invest in your business as well.

Ask yourself who you're looking for - targeting your recruiting strategy to match your employer brand

We've outlined three of the main types of persona we think you'll want to hire for your team. A good mix of the three, we think, will provide you with the perfect balance of experience and innovation for every aspect of your business.

The revolutionary

What do you call a person who wants the security of a traditional job, but has the qualities of an entrepreneur? An intrapreneur. These people are gold dust to fast-growth businesses. Intrapreneurship is the art of improving a company from the inside, outwards.  

What are the benefits?

  • They increase productivity
  • They're innovative
  • They're industry-aware
  • They're proactive
  • They’re wholly committed
  • They're focused on growth

The scholar

Those who have perfected the art, or a knowledge set, of an industry, are extremely valuable to your business. They'll be able to provide insight into the mindset of your customer, your competitors and will seem like a bottomless well of dos, don'ts, and experience.

What are the benefits?

  • They're knowledgeable
  • They have a strong network
  • They're industry (and customer)-aware
  • They're full of tried and tested concepts
  • They’re credible
  • They're focused on stability

The eager-beaver

Ah, the blessed newbies. They're bursting with new ideas and are hungry to learn whatever they can, from whoever will give them time. They'll ask questions, challenging processes that may go otherwise unchanged. They have a fresh perspective and are open to new ideas and ways of working (something your scholars may be less warm towards).

What are the benefits?

  • They're innovative
  • They're savvy
  • They're open-minded
  • They're full of new ideas
  • They have tireless energy
  • They're focused on standing out

So, yes, there's a lot to take into consideration, but it's a learning curve and something you'll get better at with practice. You'll know a good candidate when you meet one, it's just a matter of seeking them out.

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