"Small Businesses Can No Longer Afford To Be Dilettantes When Hiring"

by Jill Foster on January 6, 2010

Get Smart

For Women Grow Business, I interviewed Peter Weddle (who is “…filled with ingenious ideas” per The Washington Post). He is a serial entrepreneur with terrific expertise in recruiting and human capital issues. While we discussed a wide range of trends in recruiting and employment for 2010 and this coming decade, his primary point for smaller businesses is critical to your success:

Small businesses can no longer afford to be dilettantes in their hiring.

Image Get Smart by Chillhiro, Creative Commons

I could have jumped up and hugged him.
“Dilettante’ describes exactly so many entrepreneurs I have worked with in terms of their approach to hiring and retention.

I prefer citing ole Oxford here – Dilettante: One who interests himself in an art or science merely as a pastime and without serious aim or study. (Oxford English Dictionary)

Having critical skills and superior performers
Peter’s point was the key differentials for successful organizations in the 21st century are to have an adequate supply of critical skills and superior performers. And you cannot do that without understanding what you truly need and how to attract, develop and retain the right people. And many small businesses do not do that.

Far too many entrepreneurs do not invest the time or energy to hire effectively.
Some are ‘know it when I see it’ hiring managers, others develop minutely detailed lists called job descriptions. I’ve worked with a CEO who played psychiatrist in hiring and several who wanted to take all subjectivity out of the process. And those that thought a recruiter would solve their dilemmas and those who involved any staffer they could to make a consensus decision.

I have seen smart people ignore red flags the size of Texas. And those who did not even know there was a box that they were thinking in.

Hiring appears simple but hiring well is not easy.
To succeed, you need to define your business goals and how any position relates to them specifically first. Then you need to understand how to create a position that will attract people who can add value to your organization; where you will find those people; and, how you will attract the right people. Plus once you find the people who might contribute to your success, you need to be able to assess who will and to entice them to join you.

And don’t think the Internet is the solution.
A bad job description tweeted on Twitter to the wrong people is even worse than just a generic ad. You need to be smart about your needs and processes first and then choose the most effective ways to hire the right people.

Want to be smarter? Top Three checklist:

1. Learn (Hint: Understand what you need vs offer.)
Invest in yourself first – learn how to hire. You can do this by reading or taking courses. Or hire an advisor, someone who is skilled in hiring and process, as a cost-effective method to help you improve quickly.

Focus first on how you will define what you need. Next, look at what you offer – what challenges, development, and environment exist which will attract the right people to you?

Then learn how to find and assess people who meet your needs.

2. Plan (Hint: Think right people, timing, budget issues.)
If you anticipate hiring even 1-2 people in the next year, you need a plan. This includes your strategy for finding the right people as well as timing and budget issues.

Consider: what sources offer the right people to meet your needs, what specific skills and knowledge and abilities and aptitudes are critical to success, and how you will find and assess candidates. Add in the training you and all others in the process need on interviewing and evaluating applicants, so that you will make good choices.

You may find that using a recruiting agency is a smart investment or, if you are likely to be hiring more than a couple of people, you might want to outsource your recruiting process.

When recruiting becomes a common need, as you grow, you can consider bringing in a contract recruiter or hiring someone directly.

3. Execute (Hint: Have a cold heart toward process.)
This is where so many organizations fail. Amazingly, many of these failures are due to administratively cumbersome processes and executives who cannot make up their minds. While you may recognize both those issues as problems in other areas, beware such ‘killers’ in hiring! Don’t think that they protect you somehow from hiring risks. Look at your process with a cold heart – would you want to work for your organization?

Top talent always has great options. If your process is flawed or you execute badly, you will not be able to hire the critical skills and superior performers you need.

What hiring strategies have you applied in your business? What were the outcomes?

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Guest contributor Patricia A. Frame is an experienced management consultant, speaker, and executive with expertise in human capital. Launching a new Women Grow Business series on human resources for small business, Patricia is founder of Strategies for Human Resources. She helps small to mid-size organizations achieve their goals through more effective human capital strategy and management. And she can be reached through her website SHRinsight.com, where archives for her ongoing management series can be found.

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