Hiring Advice: Keeping it Lean

A small business expert shares recruiting strategies for a winning team

A small business expert shares recruiting strategies for a winning team

By Sheryl Nance-Nash

A business is only as good as its employees. When an employee leaves, businesses must spend money to find and train a replacement but effective hiring practices can result in lower employee turnover and higher profits.

One person who understands the staffing concerns and hiring dilemmas business owners face is Jim Crisafulli. The founder of Woonsocket, Rhode Island-based Crisafulli Business Coaching has been helping small business owners come up with strategies to attract and retain top talent for the last 20 years. Crisafulli shares his thoughts with Business Accelerator on how effective hiring strategies can pay off for small businesses in spades.

What are some steps and strategies small business owners can take to run a lean, but effective organization?

Small business owners should set aside time to develop an annual strategic plan, which among other things, defines the company’s mission statement, core values, vision and brand promise. With these guiding principles, business owners must communicate this strategy to their employees so everyone is in alignment with the organization’s goals. Lean and effective goals should be articulated in the company’s key performance indicators, with measurable targets to ensure the organization is on track with the strategic plan.

Are there certain resources/places where small business owners can find good employees willing to accept lower salaries?

If companies are working with a very lean budget for salaries, then they must be in a position to offer an opportunity to work in an organization with a great culture. Many good employees will be willing to work for lower salaries if the company has a reputation as a great place to work.

Can the use of interns and virtual employees keep costs down?

​Interns can be a viable strategy to keep labor costs down depending on the position. Lower skilled positions that do not require very much training can be practical for interns. However, if the position demands skills and training and there’s a long term and permanent need for this position, then interns are not the best option.  Virtual employees can provide savings with overhead—smaller facilities are needed with virtual employees—and [are] a viable option for small businesses that have created a culture of self-responsibility and accountability.​

What are the challenges of using interns and virtual employees?

One challenge is creating and maintaining a great work environment and atmosphere with interns and virtual employees. ​ [You have] limited hours and usually short-term situations, not permanent solutions.

Once small business owners get top talent, how best can they retain them without breaking the bank? What are some smart retention strategies?

Retention improves in organizations with a defined strategy and employees aligned with this strategy. Great communication by the leadership and management teams will also improve retention as well as empower employees to make decisions related to the position and knowing there are growth opportunities in the company. ​

What would you say are some of the critical mistakes small business owners can make in the hiring process?

It’s a huge mistake to rush the hiring process. Many small business owners do not have a defined recruiting process that precedes the hiring process. Both of these processes need to rely heavily on communicating the company’s core values and attracting candidates during the recruiting process that have similar values and are attracted to the organization because of the culture. ​

What should they do instead?

Communicate these as much as possible in the recruiting phase—on the job application, in the job ad, and in the hiring phase, with targeted questions about these values during the hiring interview. ​

Similarly, what are some critical mistakes small business owners can make when it comes to retention?

Not having an outstanding onboarding process when new employees begin working at the company and not having a defined training process for their new employees. Poor retention is usually because the leadership and management teams do a poor job of training, mentoring, and supporting their employees both when they first begin their employment and during their ongoing employment.

What would be better retention strategies? 

Commitment by ownership to invest both financially and with their time commitment to continually train, mentor, and support their employees and create a culture so great that employees wouldn’t think of leaving.

When it comes to hiring best practices, Crisafulli says small business owners should take a long-term approach rather than focusing on how they might save money today. ​“While being mindful of the bottom line is important, measure the cost of turnover.”

Sheryl Nance-Nash is a seasoned journalist who has written about personal finance, small business and career-related topics for more than a decade.

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