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Finding the best staff for your business

Hiring talented staff is a common New Year’s resolution for Australian businesses. But, while the start of a new year can be a great time to hire, it’s important that businesses don’t rush into it. In today’s increasingly competitive marketplace, employers need to be strategic in how they attract and retain the best and brightest talent.

All too often busy managers let hiring fall to the bottom of their list of priorities. This is a big mistake; it is important that they invest in the process and make sure that it is not too drawn out, to snap up the best talent and stop them going to a competitor. Companies should also focus on identifying professionals that are most likely to blend into their corporate culture so they can minimise costly hiring mistakes that could undermine workforce productivity and morale further down the line.

To ensure you’re making the best staffing decisions – that you won’t regret in six months’ time – consider the following steps.

Look at the big picture

The New Year is a time for planning, so it’s also a good opportunity to evaluate your business priorities and the skills your organisation will need to achieve them in the coming year. When deciding to add staff, many businesses make the mistake of simply filling old vacancies. While this may be a smart move where there remains a strong need for those roles, business demands may have shifted, impacting the roles that are really required.

Instead of looking at individual positions, evaluate your overall needs and your entire talent base. Look at where there are skills gaps and make a list of the abilities and knowledge that would benefit your team most in the coming year.

Consider the long-term and have a think about what projects or business plans are on the horizon. For instance, if your firm is planning to open an office in another country at the end of the year, you may need employees who are knowledgeable about international rules and regulations.

Know what you want

Sometimes, hiring managers don’t clearly define what they want in an employee. Doing due diligence in relation to skills, experience or cultural fit, will help ensure that businesses are attracting the right potential hires. This then avoids wasting time down the road when the recruitment process is underway.

Every company is a bit different, so if cultural fit is a factor in your hiring decisions, you will need to clearly describe your company’s values, such as teamwork, ethics, communication, strong customer focus, creativity and accuracy.

The statement should also outline the expected code of conduct for staff, such as treating others with respect or supporting diversity. This “cultural statement” should be made known to all employees and reaffirmed in everything management says and does.

Keep in mind that the pace and structure of your work environment also help to define your corporate culture. If the climate is often intense, for instance, you should look for candidates with a history of thriving under pressure. Or, if you expect your staff to work with little supervision, you should seek out professionals who can learn quickly and run with projects without intensive input from management.

While cultural fit is often an indicator of whether candidates will be successful at your company, don’t take it too far. Avoid hiring only likeminded people. You still need some diversity in work styles and perspectives. People who can offer a new outlook or different approach are often the employees who become your most valuable players.

Be flexible

If you’re not yet certain about your business prospects in certain areas, or know that you’ll need a particular skill set for a short period of time only, consider bringing in contract or temporary professionals. By turning to project staff you can quickly readjust your workforce based on shifting demand and you’ll have the flexibility to add – or reduce – staff easily. In addition to supporting specific initiatives, contract or temporary professionals can help existing staff avoid burnout when workloads are at their peak.

Many companies have also found that working with temporary professionals provides them with the opportunity to evaluate potential full-time employees while on the job, and assess their ability to work well with existing staff and support the business effectively.

Look inside

Your best hire for an open position could already be on your payroll. Even if you’re understaffed, consider whether anyone internally could grow into a certain role with little or no training. By repositioning employees who are willing and able to take on new responsibilities, you can take better advantage of your resources, while providing new challenges for your most talented team members. Just make sure your employees are appropriately compensated for stepping up.

By adjusting or expanding the responsibilities of the most productive workers on your team, you may find they will flourish in ways that not only make them feel valued, but also create real benefits for the company. While tapping internal talent will not address every skill gap the organisation has, working with your existing team helps them develop in new areas and gives them greater satisfaction in meeting the business’ changing needs.

Ask employees for their feedback

When making your hiring plans for 2012, remember to get advice from your current staff about where they see the greatest need for additional resources. Even if you manage a very small business, you still may not notice skills gaps as clearly as your front-line employees do.

For example, you might believe that your department needs more transactional staff to handle daily responsibilities within the company, while your employees advocate for more experienced additions who can hit the ground running and support key projects. Give serious consideration to staff feedback before finalising your recruitment plans.

Irrespective of the current job market in Australia, finding quality staff continues to pose a challenge for many businesses. Therefore, you may have to work harder than ever before, and pursue new strategies, to locate candidates with the right mix of skills and experience. They’re out there, though, so when you do find them, be sure to move quickly to hire them – or someone else will.

In any economy, good people with specific skill sets will receive multiple job offers. You will need to show them why they should choose your organisation above others. Sell the benefits of working with your business, and offer a compensation package in line with, or ideally, above, market rates. Although financial remuneration is important, also look to offer other benefits such as flexible working hours, as this may also appeal to potential hires.

Once you’ve developed a strategy and put it into action, be sure to make similar evaluations at least every six months. The earlier you identify staffing gaps, the better prepared your team will be to keep up with business demands.

Companies that invest time in achieving a balance between workloads and staff levels will keep morale high and position themselves to take advantage of new opportunities. Yes, it takes work to determine when it’s time to hire and what types of employees you need, but as time goes on your business will prosper as a result of the effort invested.

–Andrew Morris is a Director at specialist finance, accounting and technology recruitment firm Robert Half.

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