Small businesses: When should you hire new employees?

If you're a small business or SME the chances are your attention is fully focused on company growth. The chances are also high that you need to hire new employees. Many small business leaders are aiming to meet key growth goals in the early part of this year. They are keen to maximise commercial opportunities, but at the same time want to do so as effectively and efficiently as possible.

When should you hire employees?

It goes without saying that, if you're trying to build a bigger organisation, you need more people. As an SME leader, it's your decision when, and how, to recruit. You don't want to employ people too early only to find there isn't enough work to go around. But equally, if you delay it’s at your peril - you're never going to maximise your growth potential with a skeleton staff. If you wait too long to build up your team, you may be forced to pass up on growth opportunities. Unless your SME has the capacity to take on new customers and contracts, all you can hope to achieve is tread water.

If you hire new employees, there is greater scope to target new business, deliver better service for your clients and ensure the orders keep coming in. You should be constantly reviewing your employees, and where possible, hire proactively to meet increased needs.

With so many employers looking to hire, and everyone targeting skilled and experienced candidates, it isn't always easy finding people of the required calibre. This makes it all the more important to maintain a constant candidate pipeline. Do you know who your next hire will be? And where you are most likely to find them?

Tips for employing staff

Remember, you don't always have to hire new employees on a permanent basis. As an SME, the temporary labour market can be a highly valuable resource. The ability to bring in temps or skilled interim professionals on-demand gives companies valuable flexibility. Essentially, you can recruit people as and when you need them, and then let them go when no longer required. For instance, you may wish to boost your headcount during the holiday season, during peak periods, when an employee goes off sick or when somebody leaves unexpectedly. You are under no pressure to turn the temporary placement into a permanent arrangement, but if the employee impresses and you're eager to keep them onboard, you can offer them a job.

It's important to appreciate that, as your SME grows, and it takes on more business, your personnel needs are likely to change. Therefore the duties undertaken by individual employees may alter.

For instance, in a smaller SME, sales staff may have time in their day to perform other types of duties - they won't necessarily spend all day, every day trying to drum up new trade. But as the company grows and becomes a larger player, targeting higher revenues, you'll need your salespeople to focus on their primary function - creating new revenue streams. As such, other employees will be needed to take over some of their previous workload, such as customer support, marketing and administration tasks.

It's important to get the right balance of skills, particularly within small-to-medium-sized business. In the early days, think about putting together a team of generalists - when you hire new employees you will have the right mix to perform a variety of tasks, according to what is required on any particular day. But as your company expands, roles will naturally become more specialist. You need to make sure you have experienced people capable of overseeing key functions such as finance, human resources, sales and product development. You can't afford to take any chances with under-skilled people, and nor can you do everything yourself.

Hire the right people

If you're focused on expanding, what can you do to increase your chances of success? For starters, you need to hire the right people. A great recruitment decision can add value to your company, in both the short- and long-term, but equally bad hire can be detrimental. This is why you need to be thorough during the recruitment process, and make sure you bring in people who are not only technically capable, but also motivated and a good cultural fit for your organisation.

Sometimes your best bet for filling a vacancy will be someone already on your payroll. They know how things work within your company, have proven their ability and loyalty, and they may be eager for career development within your business. So if you have a current member of staff who can grow into a role through additional training and mentoring, why not give them the chance? It will certainly help from an employee retention perspective. Then you can bring somebody else into the company at entry-level, with the added bonus that the person you have promoted can assist with the onboarding process. 

Whenever you hire for your SME, it's important to use the best interview questions to identify the best candidate for the role. In order to be a successful hire for your company, they need to have commercial nous and a head for business. Ideally, you want people have a proven record, and who understand the value of saving time, money and customers. They also have to realise what life will be like working for an SME, as opposed to large company. The day-to-day functions, rewards and opportunities are different, and candidates need to know what to expect before they join.

Recruiting the top candidates

If you've acknowledged the need to increase your SME's headcount, and know roughly who you are looking for in new hires, all that's left to do is secure your preferred candidates. This can be more difficult than it sounds! High-calibre people aren't always easy to come by, particularly in a buoyant, competitive jobs market. If you're unable to match the financial clout of your bigger rivals, you need to find other ways of luring the talent in.

As an SME boss, your first job is to identify talented professionals and establish contact with them. You can do so by advertising, being active on social media, attending networking events, setting up an employee referral programmes and establishing links with a recruitment agency. They may be able to help identify and headhunt suitable people, according to your candidate requirements and budget.

What can you offer talented professionals?

The final step is to sell your business vision - and the opportunities you can offer - to the people you want to hire. This means communicating some of the benefits of SME employment, including:

1. Skills development

Working for an SME may provide exposure to various departments, functions and ways of operating, in a highly entrepreneurial environment. Employees often have a wide brief, which can serve as a superb education for people with business aspirations of their own. At the very least, this experience is great for employees from a CV-building perspective.

2. Rapid progression

Candidates who show ability and aptitude may quickly find themselves promoted to the front line, assuming important responsibilities and making key business decisions. Should your company continue on its growth curve, these roles could become senior executive jobs in the future.

3. Exciting work

SMEs are often the most innovative firms, creative businesses. They are more agile than larger companies, and as such, tend to be the first to respond to changing market conditions and trends. SMEs are often the ones who shake up the markets with new products and services, meaning small businesses represent an exciting proposition for creative minds.

4. Less corporate

If your business is going to hire new employees, one benefit is a smaller team, where everyone knows each other on a personal level, appeals to many professionals. The competitive corporate lifestyle of the multinational organisation is not for everyone; many prefer a less formal, more intimate working environment. Some people just love to work for the underdog!

5. Greater flexibility 

Your SME may not be able to match the salaries on offer at larger firms, but there is scope to offer benefits such as flexible working hours, shift patterns, location and flexible pay/benefits. When an SME leader hires an employee, they can - more or less - find any arrangement that works for a particular individual. You might want to look out for high-flyers who need a lifestyle change, perhaps due to family commitments. They may be able to help take things to the next level, even if they're not working full-time.

In summary

There are plenty of fantastic growth opportunities for SMEs, and your company doesn't want to miss out. Whether you're looking to boost output at your current site, open in a new location, launch new products or services, or export overseas, you're going to hire new employees. There's no getting away from it. If you're taking on new staff, you surely want to recruit the best talent possible. Having a clear idea of who you are looking for, where they can be found and how you can attract them to your business can make all the difference. It can put your business on course for a highly successful year.

If you are thinking about growing your employees numbers and would like more tailored advice on the best way to do so, contact one of our specialised recruitment consultants near you.

Tags: Hiring