Employing staff as a small business

So often, companies just starting are a little wary of hiring staff to help them out during the business’s early stages.

These fears may be due to the insecurity of income, being able to cover your expenses first, or even the deer in the headlights freeze of not knowing which position to fill first.

Employing staff in South Africa needs to be done very carefully. The labour laws are strict, and if you get it wrong, making a bad choice can be an expensive exercise.

Here are some tips to ensure you make the right staff call early on:

  • Do a full spec sheet for the job. Outline exactly what you need that person to do.
    Review this to ensure you are not loading jobs on to the job spec that may detract from the hire. For example, if you need technical expertise, don’t expect them to be creative on your website, have a high enough EQ to deal with clients, or need an admin person, don’t expect them to maintain your website. Just because they are a jack of all trades does not mean they are a marketing expert. Unicorns do not exist.
  • Recruit from recommendations as well as casting the net a bit wider than usual. Asking your network to recommend people for the job can be a lifesaver, as it is unlikely that someone makes a recommendation of a wrong person, as their reputation is also at stake.
  • Hire for attitude; you can teach the skills. Unless it is an absolute must to have some technical or experience, an attitude is often better, especially in a start-up environment.
  • Check references, listen carefully to what they are saying, and dig deeper if you are uncertain about a specific trait. When you are interviewing, be specific about what you want to know. If you don’t get the required answer, don’t move on; keep asking in different ways until you get the response from them that you are satisfied with. There may be an issue if they are coming across as shady.
  • Stalk their social media pages; there is a wealth of information here that may sway your decision.
  • Discuss wants and needs from both sides. Some people need a job. Be honest about working hours and deadlines. If they have a young family, you cannot expect them to be on call 24/7. There are workarounds available; you all need to be upfront about it all.
  • Setting expectations upfront is crucial to a conducive working environment. If everyone knows what is expected from them, from the start, there can be no disappointments.
  • Have watertight contracts in place. Spend some money on getting a professional to draw up legal contracts that are clear. Disciplinary codes, company data and property, internet usage, etc., all need to play here.
  • Discuss and agree to separation terms, trial periods, and reviews. If people understand they have an out, or you can also terminate if the personalities don’t mesh, there is a better chance they will be themselves. Some people pretend for a three month probation period and then only show their true colours.
  • If you find that particular person who has the same outlook for the business, look after them. This can be through training, incentives, and promotions. Incentives do not always have to be cash-based. Many staff would appreciate time off to spend with their families or rest instead, so discuss it and agree on what floats their boat.
  • If a relationship is not working, be honest, and have the discussions early. Terminate fairly but quickly and move on, tweaking contracts, job specs, and your interview questions along the way, so you are implementing learnings each time you need to interview to find that perfect puzzle piece