THE COMPANIES THAT RESPONDED to our small business survey intend to invest heavily in their human resources. According to the survey, 49 per cent of small business owners intend to invest in their labour force over the next 12 months.
The challenge, of course, is where they’ll make those investments. Craigslist and Kijiji appear to be easy talent searches, but the results tend to be underwhelming. “You want to focus your efforts in a high-target area,” says Jeff Aplin, the chief operating officer of David Aplin Recruiters in Calgary. He suggests, for example, post-secondary career centres when looking for well-educated people who are light on experience. “Something like that is very low cost and can give you great exposure to exactly the pool of potential candidates you want compared to Kijiji, where you’re just fishing in the whole deep blue sea.”
Aplin encourages company owners to offer job flexibility and customization to attract “bull’s-eye” employees. That is exactly what Carson Pierce, the founder of Red Deer’s Idea Market Design, did when he found himself struggling to retain staff in an industry that traditionally operates in bigger cities. “One of my full-time employees works in Calgary and we just communicate via Skype and e-mail,” Pierce says. “That flexibility for him was the most important thing and that’s what kept him around.”
Getting the word out to the right people isn’t always enough to get the job done, though. How that word is presented is important too, says Rick Harcourt, president of Harcourt Recruiting Specialists in Edmonton. “Ad-wise, it’s key to look at what the ‘fizzle factor’ is for your company because the big problem with the majority of ads is that they speak to what the company wants and not what the person wants.” Many businesses forget to mention culture, open-door policies, mentorship or even company barbecues in job postings, which often matter just as much as financial compensation for job-seekers.
Meanwhile, the big fish isn’t always the best catch. Aplin says that he has seen plenty of cases in which small up-and-coming businesses hire former executives from large companies – to disastrous results. “Just because somebody has the experience of leading an organization where you want yours to be down the road, doesn’t mean they’re the right one for you at the moment.”
Above all, Aplin says, it’s important not to be afraid of a little failure. “If you’re an entrepreneur launching a new company and you’re hiring new people, just be prepared to make mistakes,” says Aplin. “Be brave. Hire people, but know some of them are going to be the wrong people.”
THREE TIPS for finding the right people
1. For customer service or sales positions, try to hire in pairs because it’s just as easy to train two people as it is one. Stay true to your core values and culture.
2. Don’t compromise and hire senior managers because they look good on paper. Find people who are excited about new ventures and growth.
3. Focus on the things that you can give people (like opportunities to lead) instead of comparing your company to others to determine what you can’t offer (like year-long sabbaticals or full-salary maternity leave).