As an entrepreneur running a small business or working on making your startup profitable, you’re used to hearing about the “right people.” A phrase that immediately comes to mind is “surround yourself with the right people.” But what does that mean? How can you find talented people who are also loyal, especially when there are bigger fish who will try to poach them?
There are, in fact, headhunting companies that help companies with big recruiting budgets poach the best of the best. Poaching is an industry. Meanwhile, startups are in decline. “Some of this decline has come from the decline of small businesses,” says Bloomberg’s Noah Smith. “When national chains like Walmart Inc. and Target Corp. can come to town and muscle out the competition, there’s not much point in opening a mom-and-pop shop.”
National chains and enterprises make it tough to find the right people. Workers are changing jobs less often as they shore up with legacy companies. As an entrepreneur, people are your biggest asset. Consider these tips to finding and retaining the best people.
Think Long Term
An employee’s long-term contribution to your company is perhaps the most important thing to consider. But how can you tell whether a candidate will deliver over time? Consider these tips to hiring employees:
- Look for candidates who can help grow your business. If an employee contributes to growth, she saves you money and therefore she saves you time in the long run.
- Look for candidates who will help bring in other good people. If a candidate has a good work ethic and is likeable, chances are the people she recommends will share these characteristics.
- Look for candidates who fit your culture. The golden rule here is to look for people you look forward to working with.
According to psychologist Robert Hogan, people have three “master motives” that drive office politics:
- They need to get along with each other
- They need to get ahead
- They need to find meaning in what they’re doing
You can keep these master motives in mind when you’re considering candidates. The employee who finds meaning in doing a good job for the sake of helping the group succeed — and because they like to do good work — will be more likely than other employees to help your business grow.
For example, imagine you ask candidates to work on an assignment within a certain period of time. Candidate A completes the entire assignment and goes through the necessary hoops. Candidate B doesn’t get quite as much done, but the work they do is of a higher quality — this candidate wants the work to actually benefit those for whom it’s intended. Candidate A, however, most likely feels they will benefit from completing the assignment quickly. The boss will smile at their speed and efficiency and they’ll get the job.
Candidate B is the right choice because quality work is what helps a business grow. In the long term, quality work will save you money and time. Furthermore, people will probably get along better with Candidate B, because Candidate B isn’t just there to advance their own career — they’re there for the benefit of the group. At least, they appear to be more altruistic than Candidate A. Candidate B is also the most likely to advance, because you want to keep people who do good work. You also want to keep people who get along well with others.
There’s more to consider: talent doesn’t necessarily help your company grow because of a lack of friction with other employees. There’s something to be said for a talented person who will speak their mind despite office politics. In the next section we’ll examine talent.
Think About What Type of Talent You Want
There’s more than one type of talent. There’s the type that does a great job on assignments and you enjoy working with them. There’s also the type that takes things beyond completion, the type that isn’t afraid to propose new ideas and challenge the dominant narrative.
First a rundown of why it’s important to focus on talent:
- A bad hire can cost your company anywhere from $25,000 to upwards of $50,000 in a single year.
- If you’re well aware of new employees’ strengths and you focus on their strengths daily, studies show you’ll see 13 percent higher productivity.
- Employees who are able to use their unique talents more often on the job are less likely to be worried, stressed, and sad.
Employees who can use their strengths are more likely to feel energetic, happy, and respected. To that end, if you find somebody who’s good at coming up with new ideas, it’s a great idea to create a research and development position for them. You must be flexible in using your employees’ strengths. You want to look for people who excel at the day-to-day work, but you also want to look for people who excel creatively. You may need to pay this type of talent more.
There are multiple ways to determine which candidates have the type of talent you’re looking for:
- Talent assessment tools
- Tests during interview process
- Unusual questions
- Questions about how they would handle certain scenarios/challenges
- Big picture questions
- Questions about the type of workplace they prefer
Many talent assessment tools include tests to gauge employee aptitude and fit, but as a small business in a specific niche, you may want to draw up your own tests.
However, if you’re pressed for time in this regard, it’s worthwhile to consider assessment tools:
- HireSelect: A web-based pre-employment system from Criteria Corp. that includes aptitude, personality, and skills tests, with real-time scoring. To provide customized test batteries for over 1,100 positions, Criteria Corp. enlists a scientific advisory board consisting of psychologists and test-development experts from Harvard and other universities.
- Saberr: A predictive analytics tool for determining cultural fit, Saberr starts with a survey of each team member and moves onward to tell you how well a candidate will fit with the team and even a particular individual. The app claims to be able to predict “up to 30 percent of team performance.”
- Athena Assessment: Athena’s tool is all about judgment — the better a candidate’s judgment, the higher her “Athena Quotient,” a score based on the “nature, character and strength” of judgment. This tool may be useful for filling a position that requires the employee to make a lot of her own decisions.
Assessment tools are more supplemental than anything else. They can help back up your intuition concerning a candidate so you don’t have to do extensive follow-up interviews and tests.
Your Intuition Plus Their Performance Equals a Sure Thing
Some people are good at selling themselves, and your intuition says “go for it.” However, their ability to talk themselves up doesn’t necessarily mean they have the right skills. Consider the position you’re hiring for carefully and devise a test to see if a candidate really is what they say they are.
In the end, a candidate with a great personality — at least, a personality you get along with — and devotion to quality work is a huge asset you shouldn’t pass up. Think long term, be prepared to pay them what they’re worth, and you’ll find the right people.