By: John Rossheim, Monster Senior Contributing Writer
Most storefronts don’t have revolving doors, though you might guess that they do if you judge by the high hourly worker turnover at small businesses. Indeed, many small business employers have long since given up trying to carefully select the best counter help or clerical talent, instead simply ushering in a stream of warm bodies for brief tenure.
But heedless hiring of non exempt employees can come at a huge cost: hourly workers who commit many errors, offend customers and ultimately leave you at a competitive disadvantage.
Some owners view a stable, high-quality hourly workforce as an impossible dream. “Small companies believe that because they’re small, they won’t get good employees, and that’s wrong,” says Ann Latham, president of consulting firm Uncommon Clarity in Easthampton, Mass. “Owners can sell candidates the benefits of getting more varied experience and moving up the ranks faster.”
So what can you do to increase hourly worker performance? “Having a system in place is the key,” says Trae Wieniewitz, president of Wieniewitz Financial in Knoxville, Tenn.
Begin by assessing and upgrading the key stages of your recruitment process: employee sourcing, interviewing techniques and employee screening. A relatively modest investment of time and money up front should pay for itself many times over.
Don’t Let Inertia Limit Your Candidate Sourcing
Maybe you’ve always advertised hourly openings in your community newspaper or simply hung a help-wanted sign. Or maybe you’ve posted jobs online for years. Either way, in this age of exponential change, you should frequently reassess how you match media to your target audience of candidates.
Before you write the job description, “have the role spelled out, even if you’re hiring your first employee,” says Wieniewitz. If the opening is for an additional position in an existing role, have your hiring process include an incumbent employee review that allows them to comment on the job description.
When you do an initial screening of applications, take note of how candidate characteristics vary with the advertising medium and platform; all recruitment channels are not created equal.
Interview According to a Plan
Before you do another interview, take a day to make a plan: write a standard set of interview questions; consider who (a supervisor? a peer?) on your staff should participate; settle on a method to record and score the interviewee’s performance.
Naturally, each small business entrepreneur takes his own approach to live encounters with candidates but interview preparation is key. “Our interview process is standardized,” says Peter Ross, CEO of Senior Helpers, a Towson, Md., franchisor of home-care providers. “We have a list of questions, but ad-libbing is also allowed.”
Small-business owners in some industries incorporate a test of telephone skills. “I use a two-step process,” says Wieniewitz. “First, a phone interview where we talk about the candidate’s previous employment, why they want the job, what they bring to the table. The second interview would be in the office, and would include a role-play.”
A candidate for a customer service representative job or retail salesperson job might be asked to play that role opposite an argumentative customer, for example.
Go easy on the yes/no questions, because you won’t learn much from the answers. “Employers tend to ask questions where it’s obvious what the right answer is supposed to be, rather than trying to discover the natural inclinations of candidates,” says Latham. “Ask behavioral-based interview questions like, ‘Tell me about a time when….’ ”
If, at any point in the interview, you hear yourself talking nonstop for several minutes, you’re saying too much and missing the opportunity to find out more about the candidate. Focus on how to interview candidates, /hr/hr-best-practices/recruiting-hiring-advice/interviewing-candidates/how-to-interview.aspx not educating them.
Preserve the value of the interview by making a contemporaneous record of it. Immediately after the meeting, while the conversation is fresh in your mind, take a few minutes to write notes on how it went, the candidate’s responses and manner, and so on.
Screen and Select for the Job and Your Company
If you’re like many small-business owners, you’ve never considered formal testing of hourly workers for skills, abilities and behaviors. “Pre-employment screening is pretty uncommon among small businesses,” says Ken Lahti, a vice president at SHLPrevisor, a provider of employee assessments in Roswell, Ga.
But if specific requirements of the job are necessary and time-consuming to acquire, you should consider formal screening. “Just having had a job doesn’t mean you’re good at it,” says Lahti. “That’s why testing can be extremely useful.”
For example, candidates for an hourly bookkeeper job at an accounting firm can be tested for skills in accounts payable and receivable. Or applicants for a customer service representative job can be assessed for attitude and sales ability.
What’s the out-of-pocket expense? A basic program of tests will likely cost between $25 and $100 per candidate, according to Lahti. “The return on investment is likely to be at least 10 times that amount.”
Finally, take the time to make the calls as part of your reference checking; negligent-hiring lawsuits are on the rise, and small businesses are not immune. “We do personal reference and employment reference checks as well as criminal record checks,” says Ross.