Every business owner has faced the dreaded moment when a treasured employee offers up their resignation. It rarely happens at a convenient time. No matter how well you perform as a leader, you can’t control everything; this extends to your employee turnover.
But, as they say, when one door closes another one opens.
Turnover presents you with an opportunity to engage in strategic hiring; not only to hire the right people with the right qualifications but also to define positions and attract the best possible candidates.
How to Find an Opportunity in a Stressful Situation
When an employee quits or gives two weeks’ notice, you may consider the “easy route”—take their old job description, post it online, and wait to see who answers. But is that the best method for strategic hiring?
Shift your mindset to view employee turnover as an opportunity instead of a problem. For example, you might lament the loss of your accountant who stuck with you for the last five years. While it’s hard to lose a good accountant, the situation presents an opportunity to redefine the Controller position. You could bring more worth to the role, and thus, attract a qualified and engaged employee.
After all, good employees are hard to find and even harder to keep! Employee engagement and buy-in are often vital components of employee retention. Employees will leave due to extenuating circumstances, of course, but happy, engaged, and appreciated employees are much more likely to stick with you long-term.
Use the departure of one employee as an opportunity to tighten up the positions and responsibilities of the rest of your team to deter a mass exodus.
In smaller companies, a position opening provides the opportunity to reevaluate important aspects like company culture, position necessity, and even cross-functionality. It’s an essential time to check-in with your team. Request the input from those in the “trenches.” Often, they’re able to identify gaps and pinpoint areas where coverage is lacking.
Don’t Rush It: Strategic Hiring Takes Time
You may feel like you need to rush to get a body into the empty chair so you and the rest of the company can continue with business as usual. Unfortunately, “replacing” an employee without consideration may lead to a missed opportunity to improve your team.
When a team member leaves your company, there is an immediate need to ensure the tasks they were responsible for will still get completed every day. Whether everyone in the business pitches in or a few select employees must absorb additional duties, consider what’s best for everyone in the long-term. Spread the work around, so no one burns out.
Smaller companies tend to feel more of a pinch in these situations. If you’re missing clear procedures, company-wide cross-training, and a team attitude of willing helpfulness from day one, it will be particularly hard.
Now is the time to boost morale and strengthen your company culture. Improving engagement may mean merely acknowledging your employees’ extra effort with a donut day or lunch. Often, employees just want to be recognized for their efforts. Spread the appreciation amply around, especially when a particular group or employee is picking up the slack.
Carry Out a 360-Degree Assessment
When an employee leaves, there are several areas you should consider. Look at this time as an opportunity to assess and strengthen your company:
- Review the immediate impact of the team member loss on others in the organization as far as tasks and responsibilities.
- Hold a team meeting to distribute the day-to-day workload to maintain customer service immediately.
- Review performance plans and become more knowledgeable about the needs and interests of other team members; for example, is there the opportunity to promote someone from within?
- Review the ‘who does what’ aspect of your business model. List current procedures to see if there is redundancy or overlap you could eliminate.
- Analyze the areas in which the former team member was successful and where they fell short of the mark.
- If you decide to hire a new team member, determine the skillset you need and the experience necessary for success, then create a job description.
Redefining a new position may look very similar to replacing an old one, but that doesn’t mean there’s no difference. Every time you face a change, you are, in essence, defining a new position.
Gathering Input from Your Team
Before you start your search for the right job candidate, meet with stakeholders and relevant team members to gather their input. Pertinent questions to review when you encounter an opportunity to build your team:
- Should we replace the position with another person?
- Can we offer growth to another team member by moving elements of the position?
- Does the job description accurately describe what the position entails?
- What does the workload of other team members look like? Are they able to absorb some or all of the responsibilities?
- Is there an under-utilized team member with a unique skillset?
- Are we looking for additional responsibilities to add to the position that the former team member couldn’t provide?
- How much experience are we looking for in this position? Evaluate experience needs vs. experience wants against the expense of training.
Once you’ve completed a full assessment of the situation, you’ll have plenty of material to assist you and your HR department. You can begin crafting a dynamic employee ad, recruiting the right candidate, and conducting the interviewing and screening process.
Finding the Right Person for the Position
Instead of searching for the “perfect employee” (who doesn’t exist!) look for a candidate who’s a good fit. The right person, at the right time, for the right job, on the right team.
To find the best possible candidate for your vacant position, carefully define the specific skills you require for the job. During your discussions with your SME’s and team leaders, review and expand the relevant skills. Technical candidates such as engineers, architects, accountants, or chemists should possess the requirements like degrees or specific certifications accurately matching your job descriptions.
For non-technical candidates, evaluate the specific skills you’re looking for. Think about what types of people were successful in the role in the past. What made them successful and WHY? At this point, an actual written list is helpful; integrate your discoveries into interview questions later.
Once you’ve put out your ad and the responses start pouring in, you face the task of narrowing down your options. Here’s the million-dollar question: How do I pick the right person for the job?
Strategic hiring is considered one of the most challenging issues surrounding business success and management today. Narrowing down a pool of high-quality candidates may seem like a pretty daunting task. Rely on the information you’ve compiled on the role. Assess the potential candidates against your definitions.
The more clearly you define your needs for the position, the more productive the interview process (and ultimately the hiring process) will be.
Preparing for Interviews
I want to add the quick disclaimer here; this post doesn’t cover the legal issues surrounding what you can and can’t ask a candidate in an interview. You should consult a lawyer if you’re unsure about the legality of the interview process.
Ask yourself: what information will you seek in the interview? Your answers may vary based on the position and level of experience required. Remember, you’re determining if the candidate can perform the job function and if they’ll fit with your team.
How many interviews you conduct with a specific candidate will often depend on the size of your business, the number of high-quality candidates, and the level of the job. For most roles and positions in many small businesses, three to four interviewees will suffice.
Before you interview…
- Each interviewer should have a complete list of interview questions to work from and room to document the answers provided. These questions should be open-ended, and several interview questions should repeat among the interviewers.
- Audio taping the interview is an excellent way to ensure you don’t miss anything or misquote the interviewee.
- Look into the different styles and types of interviews to see which fits your business best.
- Include a rating system to rate the overall performance of the interviewee at the end.
- Don’t forget to discuss impressions with your interviewers. Sometimes, the overall impression of a person after an interview is a red flag for a less-than-great candidate.
- Weigh each candidate against the criteria you’ve outlined in your strategic hiring discussions with your team. You’ve defined the position, now find the candidate best aligned with your needs.
As the business owner, president, or general manager, are you expected to conduct each interview yourself? NO! Ensure each interviewer has a list of questions pertinent to the position and you’re all on the same page about what it is you seek in a great candidate.
Keep in mind that the interview process is often fraught with uncertainty. None of us can predict the future or know how an employee will perform when the rubber hits the road. However, we can set ourselves up to be as strategic as possible in the hiring process.
After the interviews, compare the candidates and make a choice. If you’ve carried out your due diligence, rest easy knowing you’ve positioned yourself well. No matter how well you integrate a new team member, or how skilled a new employee is, a new hire impacts your entire team.
Bruce Tuckman developed the concept of four stages high-performing teams inevitably go through in the process of becoming more efficient. It starts with forming and continues into the storming phase. Then, the norming stage follows as a hierarchy is established. Finally, the performing stage is the last phase in which all the hard work pays off.
The better fit your new employee is for the position and the company culture, the faster the four stages of high performance will run their course. Take steps during onboarding to train and integrate the new hire thoroughly. Document procedures and policies as you move forward to shore up any gaps in your system.
Strategic hiring of the right people for the right positions is one of the best ways to ensure the health and continued success of your company. Use the opportunity of a departure to increase the performance and engagement of your team.