• Nicky Walker


I’ve recently had a number of conversations with fellow business owners about their ‘bad hire’ stories and it got me thinking. It’s a really common problem, particularly in small businesses where the stakes are so high and there’s no talent management support in place. However it’s really easy to put these fails down to ‘bad hires’, when the problem is just as likely to sit with the briefing, the onboarding, or dare I say it, the management of the recruit. Or even a combination of all three.

As a small business, hiring is a big deal, and getting it wrong can cost you time and money and possibly a few sleepless nights. There is often high expectation and excitement that your new team member will be the answer to all of your problems. And whilst they may not come charging in on a white horse, they could well be an incredible asset in generating new or repeat business, streamlining your operations, or creating more time and organisation in your day, but only if you create the right environment in which they can flourish.

It can be pretty devastating when hiring doesn’t work out and you can end up reluctant to head down that road again. Instead of being afraid of it, learn how to get it right. Look at the environment in which you’re looking for your new hire to perform; the onboarding, the expectation setting, and the support mechanism. Plan the process carefully, give it the time and thought it needs, and bring others into it.

Here are my top ten tips for successful hiring:

  • The right brief - Identify and communicate the behaviours and values you want your new hire to display, not just the tasks you want them to accomplish.

  • Respect the role – I so often see job ads that include a whole heap of other responsibilities on top of the core aspects of the role a business is recruiting for. Trying to get an Account Manager to be your Marketing Manager, your P.A. and your Finance Manager at the same time is setting them up to fail in the job you need them to do most. Of course as a small business you need your team to be willing to ‘muck in’ and help wherever needed sometimes, but be very clear about the core things you expect of them, or you’ll find yourself with someone who isn’t skilled or passionate about the job you need them to do.

  • The importance of personality – Often personality can get overshadowed by experience or qualifications. In my view, it should be equal, if not (in some cases) more important. Think carefully about the personality traits you need within the role you’re recruiting for as they’ll be different for most roles. And remember that having a balance of personalities will make a stronger performing team.

  • Learning opportunities - Think about the skills that already exist in your team and look for someone that complements them. Ensuring that each member of your team has something they can teach or learn, regardless of seniority, will create a sense of balance and a stronger team bond.

  • Get experienced support - if you’re not confident in being able to assess and select the right person for your team, ask for help. Either advice and guidance from a peer that you know is experienced at hiring, another member of the team (it doesn’t always have to be the boss who hires!) or outsource it. It’s important and worth investing in to get it right.

  • Information overload – Onboarding should not just offer a thorough understanding of your products or services, your new hire needs to understand and fully believe in your vision for the future and your purpose in the world. The more you share, the more likely it is that they will make the right calls, every time.

  • Set the right expectations – Make sure the objectives and targets set are clear and realistic – and then provide the right level of support and coaching to help them achieve them. Ensure you set them in collaboration with your new hire to ensure they buy in to them.

  • Developing like a professional – A huge factor in the success of new hires is down to the quality of the development process you follow in their first couple of months. This is a whole blog in itself (which I promise to write soon) but in the meantime make sure you; research how to do it properly; invest enough time; create an open and comfortable environment for sharing feedback (both ways); and where able, lean on others who can support you.

  • Give them time – However much of a rockstar they are, they will not transform your business overnight. They need time to test and learn what works (and what doesn’t), to understand your brand, business and customers deeply. No matter how experienced they are in their role, they’re inexperienced about how to conduct it within your business.

  • Get to know them – Such a simple one but you’ll be surprised how many managers don’t take the time to develop a relationship with their new hires, then wonder why they were unable to share their unhappiness / frustration / lack of confidence until it’s too late.

Building your team is one of the most exciting, yet terrifying, things you can do as a small business owner. But you’re not alone. If you’re about to embark on your first, second or even tenth hire and would like some support to ensure it’s a success, get in touch for a chat.

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