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5 Tips for Hiring and Empowering Great Employees

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5 Tips for Hiring and Empowering Great Employees

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: March 14, 2013

Hiring employees is probably the most important decision any entrepreneur will ever make. But relinquishing some of the responsibility of your business to others is tough.

The key to getting it right is finding employees with the right value alignment and attitude (often easier said than done). Of course, you need to work at it too. Once you’ve built your team, learning to let go and empower employees is critical if you want focus on growing your business.

These steps are explored in one of SBA’s Learning Center videos–Hiring and Developing Employees—which features insights and tips from successful small business owners who’ve struggled with many of these issues and challenges themselves.

Here are five tips they suggest for growing your business through hiring and developing great employees:

Learn How to Let Go

As you start a business, you’ll likely be wearing many hats. But if your business is going to grow, then learning to let go is critical: “You are a leader for the business,” explains Eileen Spitalny, co-founder of Fairytale Brownies, a $10 million a year online and mail-order baking business headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. “In the beginning, we did bake the brownies; we did wash the pans. But you need to trust people, give them parameters, let them learn on their own, give them feedback and be there as their mentor, not over their shoulder. This is our philosophy.”

Both Spitalny and co-founder David Kravetz acknowledge that letting go didn’t come easy for them: “Looking back, we took too long to let go, and now we realize our team members are going to grow with the more responsibility we give them.” Fairytale Brownies encourages its employees to be proactive in their feedback, offering incentives such as movie tickets in return for suggestions on how they can better run the business.

Encourage Decision-Making Among Employees

Part of learning how to let go is looking for ways to empower your employees and give them decision-making authority. But how much trust can you instill in them without feeling the need to constantly monitor performance or simply “be there” for them?

After reading a self-help book on management skills, Fairytale Brownies were inspired to launch a “$100 Empowerment Policy.” This simple solution gives any team member the authority to spend up to $100 of company money to solve a customer problem without having to ask. “It’s taken a long time to get them to actually give up the money and a lot of times we’ll have to remind them,” explains David Kravetx, “Ninety-five percent of the problems can be solved with $100, whether it’s re-shipping a gift or refunding…and they don’t have to come to me to ask...it’s money well-spent for us.”

For more tips read: 7 Ways to Lead and Empower Your Team – Because Satisfied Employees Make for Happy Customers.

Hire the Right Values and Attitude and the Rest Will Take Care of Itself

For Steve Bell, owner of Pacific Cabinets, a multimillion dollar Washington state cabinet business, alignment of values and the right attitude is more important than experience. “If people have the same core values that we have—if they have a great attitude…if they have the ability to learn—then we can hire them and teach them anything they need to know in the business.”

For tips on finding a good match, read: 4 Interview Questions That Get to the Heart of a Candidate’s Potential.

Consider a Trial Employment Period

A new-hire trial period is another option that service-based businesses might consider to ensure a good match. Holly DiTallo, a trainer and co-owner at Scottsdale Education Center in Arizona, uses a two-week trial program to assess new educational contractors, “that’s just about long enough for us to be able to say come back another time or we don’t really think you’re the right fit.”

Fire Quickly if Things Aren’t Working Out

It goes without saying that your goal is to hire great people, but Fairytale Brownies—like many small business owners—learned some tough lessons with problem employees. “We would spend sometimes a year or longer living with an employee who we knew deep down wasn’t working out. We tried to change their personality and we learned that you can teach skills but if someone’s not working out, we will let them go a lot faster than we did at the beginning,” explains owner, David Kravetz.

What hiring challenges has your business encountered? How have you overcome these? Leave a comment below!

Don’t forget to visit the SBA Learning Center for more free self-paced online training courses, quick videos, web chats and more to help small business owners explore and learn about the many aspects of business ownership.

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About the Author:

Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

Comments:

A lot of people talk about attitude. People who have experience, knowledge and result oriented do have attitude. So to hire the best you have deal with attitude and make it work for you. Also quality comes with a price so you have to pay more to hire the best.
Finding the right fit is extremely important for both the employer and the employee. Of the 5 tips shown in the article, the third one (hire the right values and attitude) is, in my opinion, the most crucial. The onus is on the employer to clearly establish the boundaries in the initial interview - you will know when you have found the right candidate by their body language and their eye contact. You have the ability to teach anything, but can't rewire your employee's core values.
Great input Rkalani, We can't rewire the core values but what we are bestowed with us to gain commitment from them through various training and development and make them feel important to the concerned organization through mutual offering of some corporate gifts at some commemorating events.
Excellent tips. The Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the average turnover rate is approximately 3.7% per month. In fact, one-third of people are in the wrong jobs, one-third of people are not a cultural match for their company, and more than one-half of employees are not properly trained for their current position or for the company's future needs. Managers tend to fall into the same traps again and again when hiring employees. Know exactly what you want in an employee. What skills, values, traits and habits are shared by your best employees? Don't settle for less than exactly what meets your needs.
Very good advice indeed. As a small business owner, it is tempting to hire quickly based on an impressive resume. My guidance for other small business owners is to be patient and wait for the perfect candidate who 'clicks' with you on an emotional level. From what I have seen, trusting your instincts on candidates based on their degree of cultural fit with your existing team will allow them to get through the 'forming', 'storming' and 'norming' phases very quickly so that they can focus on 'performing'.

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