Growing Your Company's Team Quickly (and Well) - 5 Key Ideas to Hire Great Employees

Margolit Hillsberg, CHRO, Citadel Federal Credit Union

Margolit Hillsberg, CHRO, Citadel Federal Credit Union

In growing companies, we often talk about how to scale our products to serve more customers, reach more markets, and generally make a bigger bang. One key to growing a company is to have the right people onboard, and enough of them, to build a great product and serve your customers well. But how do you staff up quickly, keep your talent with you despite the fact that up to 50 percent of new hires leave within the first 18 months, and still avoid increasing costs and other hiring “mistakes”? In other words, how do you scale your company’s talent?

There are winning ways to approach hiring, developing, and motivating top talent for successful companies as small as two employees and as large as more than 100,000. Regardless of what size your company is or aspires to be, and whether you do it all yourself as an owner or manager, or have an HR/recruiting team, here are the things that you need to think about to grow your team quickly and well. These are 5 key practices that I have used as a talent leader in some great companies to staff up quickly the easy—and avoid the not so easy—way:

Highly Attractive Real Story

It is important to point out to today’s in-demand talent what makes your company unique and attractive. Most candidates will want to hear about basics like pay and perks, but will really get engaged when you talk about why the job or mission is meaningful and what they’ll learn by working with you. In your website’s careers page, your Glassdoor and LinkedIn company profiles, and in interviews, tell your company’s story and what a new team member can expect–what makes you tick, what the culture is like, what impact he or she will make, and most of all, why you are proud to be there! Ask existing employees what it’s like to work at your company, and post the video on your sites. Talk ahead of time with your employees to ensure they are on board with the messages being conveyed. They can also help to keep it real. Overselling becomes a big turn-off to your candidates and hurts what they’ll say about your company to others.

"Pre-employment software like the Predictive Index can also help assess ifthere is a good fit between what your company needs and what the candidate offers"

A Good Fit

Make sure there’s a good fit between the candidate, your company’s culture, and the skills needed to do the job. Be careful about compromising here. I’ve seen new hires who don’t have a key skill to do the job or who can’t get along with the team. I’ve also seen managers who change the job’s requirements to suit candidates they like. Either way, it burdens the rest of the team, which is really tough (and highly unpopular) when it’s a small group working under tight deadlines. And always hire with an eye towards the future—roles change over time, especially in growing companies, so look for candidates who demonstrate they can learn quickly, are flexible with change, and want to try new things. Pre-employment software like the Predictive Index can also help assess if there is a good fit between what your company needs and what the candidate offers.

Budget Set up

Set up a budget and do your best to work within it. This helps you make choices and establish priorities for additions to your company’s team. How many people will you hire? In which roles (or, to do what)? Where and when do you need them? How much will you pay? This budget is a plan that you can use to manage expectations about expenses, get recruiting started (though you should always be present in the market for new talent), and help focus hiring decisions.

Look ahead a year in your budgeting. You may be thinking, “A whole year? The company is growing so it’s tough to plan that far ahead.” Try to forecast out a year so you can set your initial plans in motion, and then be prepared to change the specific roles and number of openings as needed. In my prior company, I managed this way for three years of rapid growth, changing the job openings as needed but sticking within an overall total budget.

This brings up the topic of one of the most frequent questions I get asked . . . Pay.

Pay Fairly

Pay market rates, and pay similarly (within a small range) for everyone in the same job. Overpaying someone will blow your budget and cause problems among the team (yes, your employees will talk with each other about pay). Underpaying means the employee is more likely to leave as soon as they find a better gig. How can you find reliable pay data without hiring an expensive consultant? Check out cloud-based services like PayScale.

Check Candidates’ References

Once you identify a final candidate, it’s well worth the small amount of time needed to check on LinkedIn, ask your friends at other companies, and contact references that your winning candidate provides. This has definitely helped me avoid hiring mistakes. If you need it, there’s lots of information on-line about how to conduct a reference check, and which questions to ask. There are also services such as SkillSurvey that can check candidates’ references for you.

And while we’re on the topic of friends–ask your team to refer great candidates they know. Your employees know who’s good and a good fit.

In a nutshell, these are some ways to help you build a great team. One last idea—while you go through the time needed to recruit and hire your employees, use project consultants, partner companies, and staff augmentation services. This will buy you the time you need to adjust plans, get your product to market, and find the best people who are right to join your growing team.

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