by Sharon Jones
Your employees are the most important part of your company – and it’s vital that you spend the time and effort to find the right people to hire. You might be the boss, but your employees are what keeps your business going – they are the ones you should trust and work to gain their loyalty. You obviously don’t want to pander to their every whim, but working with them more often than lording over them will build a much happier workplace. And happy employees work harder and are more creative – which will, obviously, benefit your business. It’s a cycle that can only work out well.
However, if you have a bad cog in the mechanism then things can go wrong and can cause a domino effect. The higher up the chain of command the bad penny is, the worse the effects can be. Which is why it should be a priority to have a detailed application and interview system, with trusted people, or yourself, doing the interviewing.
Balance Point states that growth of a prospective employee should always be considered. You don’t just want to hire someone to fill an open gap, but someone who you could see moving up the ranks of the company, growing with the business and constantly able to stay creative and benefit the company. Never hire only thinking of the short term, think about years ahead. It can be hard to identify in a person whether or not they will last the distance, a lot of it comes down to practice and instinct, however, when you get it right it can benefit your company for years to come.
While interviewing, use questions designed to show the true character of a person. The traditional questions are still important and asking for scenarios are always a good way of having an insight into how the candidate works. But you also need to know how they think in different situations – which is where creative questions come into play. The answers given in an interview can change your mind very easily from first impressions and applications. A CV shows a list of what the applicant has done and achieved, with a handful of sentences that aim to portray their personality while still being very formal. It’s a good start and a way of weeding out the unlikely characters, however a person isn’t a piece of paper. Just because they don’t have the right, or enough experience or qualifications, isn’t to say that they wouldn’t succeed in the job.
One of the worst things that face young applicants today is the fact that they get turned down for not having the right experience, but can’t gain the right experience because they are constantly being turned down. On top of that, they might have the right level of education but not the experience, or even too much education. A lot of companies out there worry about taking on a graduate when a degree isn’t a needed requirement for the role, because they worry that the employee will move on quickly. This can be true in some cases, but in others having a degree shows hard working, team work, working to deadlines and performing under pressure – how are those not desirable skills for any company to have? It also suggests that the person will be happy to quickly work their way up in the company, which is another bonus.
So while you’re interviewing, if you find anyone who has too much or too little, don’t count them out straight away. You can also look into hiring purposefully to train and give experience in your industry. Apprenticeships, internships and graduate roles are perfect ways of meeting people half way and giving them a chance without putting them in a high position straight away. Most people you go to University and don’t choose a vocational degree, already have it in their heads that they will have to start work at the bottom and work their way up.
And then you have people who are ready to step straight into the role – and that can be perfect when you need to have the role filled straight away. Going through agencies like dsc personnel, or temporarily hiring a freelancer can fill the gap while you’re looking for a long term candidate. But there are times where you will take this route and find that the perfect person is already working for you.
Regardless of whether you are hiring qualified and experienced people, or taking a chance on an applicant, you need to make sure that all of your employees work to the same values and to the same standards. If you have multiple locations, and one of them is lazier, for example, than all the others, then it won’t just be your sales and profit that will suffer – it will also be your reputation, and that can be so much harder to regain.
Your main value and interest should always be your customers and in delivering good customer service. It doesn’t matter whether the employee deals with customers every day, or barely ever talks to them – they should still have the capacity to have the same level of customer care. The standards you set have to start from the top, if you don’t keep to them, then how can you expect anyone else to? In a coffee store, for example, if the manager doesn’t care about meeting targets then everyone under them won’t be pushed or trained to do otherwise. You are the manager of the whole company and the facts remain the same.
The best way to ensure consistent customer service is through training and reviews. Some might think it’s pointless to spend money and time training staff in how to talk to and behave around customers. And yet you would be surprised at how many people don’t think about what they are saying or acting, and it can, again, have a detrimental effect on your company’s reputation. Going back to the coffee store analogy, you can too often walk in to order your morning latte and have the barista complain about the company, or be checking their phone while tables need cleaning. That is the exact opposite of what you want to happen in your company.
Good customer service is all about retaining the customer. You want to make sure that they will come back, and the easiest and most effective way of doing that is to make them feel welcome. No matter what your industry is, make the effort to get to know your regulars and go the extra mile for any customer you have. Again, in a coffee store, this can be as simple as carrying drinks over to the table, or rearranging the furniture to accommodate larger groups, wheelchairs and pushchairs as needed.
While working towards attracting and retaining customers, you need your employees to work as a team. Being able to work on their own and manage their own tasks is incredibly important, but, as previously mentioned, a company is a mechanism and everyone needs to work together. Most businesses now encourage interdepartmental communication on various projects, rather than having pieces done in different areas and then pieced together like a jigsaw. This method can build a more creative atmosphere, and therefore better products, and it can also create better alliances and happiness throughout the company. And a happy workplace is a creative one.
Your employees will make or break your business and it’s your responsibility to make sure that it’s the former outcome. Apart from hiring the right people, you need to keep them. And the best way to do that is to make your employees feel safe, happy and valued. You gain staff loyalty through being a good boss, and that goes far beyond a good wage and generous benefits package – although that will be touched on in a moment. Being a good boss means understanding your employees and being fair to them. If someone needs time off in an emergency situation, then be gracious about it and provide support where you can. On a simpler scale if someone is late each morning due to lack of childcare, then why not talk to them about adjusting their benefits package to make room for child care vouchers or funds to the same effect. Your employees will want to stay if they are happy even if they are offered another job, perhaps with a pay rise, if they are happy where they are, most people will be happy to stay where they are than to venture into some unknown venture.
A personalized benefits package might not be something you offer every employee, but your long standing employees and your management teams might be extremely grateful for the chance to adjust their benefits. If someone is happy to work bank holidays, then why not offer them the days in lieu instead? Or if someone walks to work, can the cycle to work scheme be adjusted to apply to them too?
Your employees are important, and it’s vital that you show and treat them as such.