Finding the right staff

Let me elaborate. Typical issues mentioned were:

  • Good people are reluctant to move – and even if they do, they expect ridiculously large salaries
  • In IT support areas there’s a proliferation of hardware and software systems, so staff need to be extremely flexible. Applicants tend to have specialised on certain products and so struggle to adapt
  • People from big companies are used to more management and can find it hard to adapt to the SME environment which requires more self management and autonomous working

I recall a situation many years ago when I was in production management. The buzz at the time was all about “Cell Management”. New “Cell Manager” roles were created and the successful candidates would be “Mini MD’s” of their patch. On paper it looked great. In practice, my observation was that there just weren’t enough people with the broad range of skills to fulfil all aspects of the role specified. Over time, the roles changed and after about six years, we were back to something that was remarkably similar to the original Production Superintendent role, though of course with a fancier title!

So what’s the learning and how can it be applied to an SME environment?

I’d advocate applying a market focused approach to recruitment. Research the talent that is available, what they want, where they are and how much they’ll cost. Then design roles around this information, and support with systems and training to create something that will work. For instance:

  • Some of the companies I spoke to were very active in automating as much as possible – i.e. reducing the need for staff in the first place, though requiring a smaller number of more highly trained people
  • Others were using outsourcing for very specific aspects of their business
  • I’ve seen other companies use intern programmes to bring in graduates for 3-6 months giving them specific projects. The pay tends to be low and requires the company to repeatedly train new people coming in. But at least it’s helping the graduates break out of the “we can’t give you a job because you’ve no experience” conundrum, and the companies get bright, keen individuals wanting to get stuck in (at least some of them are!)

I believe that there is lots of talent out there and that everyone has something to offer. The challenge as a business owner manager is being able to adapt to take advantage of what’s there.

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