Many small businesses operate with the sole proprietor’s efforts alone. But what if you need more people to make your business successful? How to you find qualified candidates, hire them, and keep them for the long run? This section discusses what you need to know about hiring and retaining staff.

The Hiring Process

Start slowly. Decide whether you really need employees. If you do, hire them slowly. Costs associated with employees are high, and can quickly drain your business’s resources. On the other hand, you only have so many hours in a day -- and you may not be able to grow your business without additional help.

Understand your employment needs. Consider these areas:

  • Where could you use the most help? With sales or marketing, customer service, manufacturing your product, keeping the books, or other tasks? With something you do not perform well, so that you can focus your energies on your strengths?
  • How can employees best free you up to concentrate on running your business?
  • Do you need one person or ten? Full time or part time?
  • How much can you afford to spend on employees?
  • Is there a more effective way of getting help without hiring employees, such as by using independent contractors or working with a temporary staffing agency? If you choose to consider independent contractors, what do you need to keep in mind?

Create written job descriptions. After identifying your business employment needs, write job descriptions. These can help you focus on the most important characteristics while you screen, interview, and hire applicants. Job descriptions also provide potential employees with precise information about the job duties. You can also use job descriptions later as the basis for evaluating employee performance.

Consider employee characteristics. Think about the characteristics you would like in persons who fill these positions. Should employees have specific education, experience, or skills? Do they need a flexible schedule? Is it essential that employees interact well with the public? Act independently? Know how to use a computer?

Search for appropriate candidates. Choose sources for advertising the positions that are most likely to produce responses from qualified candidates. Each source has advantages and disadvantages. For example, you may need to pay for an ad in the newspaper; however, the newspaper may reach many people who would be interested in your position. Consider these options:

  • Your local newspapers or other periodic publications
  • Internet job-posting sites
  • Employment and recruitment agencies
  • Community, professional, and worker organizations, such as your local Chamber of Commerce 

Make the hire. Review each application you receive. Sort through them to determine which candidates may best meet your needs. If you have many who may be qualified, you may want to conduct short phone interviews first. Then you can narrow the candidates down to a few. Bring those final candidates in for a more formal interview. Keep in mind that during all interviews, whether by phone or in person, your questions should be directly related to the position. Rather than asking if a person has children, for example, you can ask if there’s anything that might prevent them from working overtime upon occasion. Take notes during your conversations. After the interviews, check references -- and then make your hiring decisions.

Retaining Staff

Once you have employees, it makes good business sense to keep them as long as possible. Help maintain a stable group of employees by taking these steps:

  • Provide adequate training. Be sure your employees know what they are supposed to do, and provide close guidance as they begin their time at your business. Give employees opportunity to increase or improve skills through additional training, if needed. Develop an employee handbook that explains the key steps about how you run the business and their role in your business.
  • Give regular feedback. Make sure your employees know how they are doing on the job. Feedback can be informal, such as work-related comments as you are passing through the area: “I see you’ve organized the space to make it easier to find the forms you need” or “You might be able to make the sale if you tried…”.
  • In addition to informal, frequent feedback, schedule periodic reviews based on the job descriptions you have developed. Be sure you or your employees’ supervisor is easily accessible to answer questions or handle problems as they arise. Foster a sense of “we’re in this together” rather than “do it… or else.”
  • Compensate employees fairly. Starting a business is expensive, and you may be tempted to cut corners on employees’ salaries. However, dedicated employees are what will help ensure the success of your venture. Employees are more likely to stay with you if they feel they are being treated -- and compensated -- fairly. Compensation can take forms beyond a paycheck, such as providing a flexible schedule, creating a pleasant work environment, offering incentives for increased sales or greater production, providing benefits, and more.

How BOS Partners Can Help:

BOS partners can help you learn more about hiring and retaining employees. Many BOS partners can also serve as a resource for advertising positions and identifying appropriate candidates. Each of the resources below has information and resources to assist you:

Additional Online Resources: