E-commerce has seen exponential growth in the last year and has certainly been a ‘winner’ during Covid-19. This has led to rapid expansion of teams due to growing client bases but recruiting new team members still needs to be a well-considered process to recruit the right people for your culture, in the right roles, in a sustainable way.
We have some top tips to help you hire more effectively.
WHAT (role do you need?)
1. What are the tasks?
Start with a list of WHAT tasks actually need doing before you come up with the solution that you need a new role. Just because you don’t have a certain role in your team doesn’t mean that recruiting this role will solve all the other issues.
The decision to take someone on shouldn’t solely come from a feeling that the team is too busy or because timescales are slipping on client projects. As well as looking at current pressures, think about what you might be missing completely or where your time is being drained: check out our blog on work-life balance.
At this stage, the focus is on WHAT you need so don’t let yourself get distracted by thinking about ‘how’ or ‘who’ yet.
2. Revenue is key
Reflect on your revenue model and decide whether you need more revenue from clients before you invest in the team to service the work.
Be careful not to get caught in the trap of always being ‘about to hire’ someone when you land ‘the next client’. Once your existing team gets too stretched, you’ll spend as much time/money discussing the bottlenecks in client projects or how tired the team are than you would in just hiring someone.
There is nothing like the thought that someone has signed a contract to join your business to motivate you to create the space and workload for that person.
3. But can you automate it?
Automate your processes where you can so that no role in your team is ever spending a lot of time on repetitive, boring tasks. This ensures consistency of experience for clients but requires maintenance so perhaps this is where a human being is needed. Don’t kill people’s souls by recreating a 20th century production line, it will not end well for you or them.
HOW (do you need this role to be done?)
4. Is Flexi Time the solution?
Challenge yourself about whether this is a full-time role and with how flexible you can be around working hours/days. There is a huge pool of people who aren’t available on a full-time basis, due to life commitments, side-hustles, other roles etc. These people are ignored by most businesses who insist on creating roles that are 9-5 Mon-Fri.
By categorising which tasks need to be done at specific times of day (client or team facing) and which aren’t time-dependent, you can determine how much flexibility you could have in a role. Tapping into this ignored pool of people and valuing them for the outputs they produce (rather than the hours they do them in) will reward you with huge loyalty. Because they’re often time-stretched, there’s a lot these people can teach others about ninja-like productivity.
5. Let's build a hybrid
Perhaps building a hybrid team of employees and freelancers to help with the peaks and troughs in the workload would work for you. Freelancers can be an effective solution for short-term project needs or to top-up your resources at short notice.
Beware of becoming reliant on freelancers as your core team as not all freelancers want to become a long-term part of the team so could leave, taking their knowledge of your clients with them. There are some specialist functions that you won’t have enough of a need to hire in and outsourcing these makes sense. And if you’re regularly outsourcing what you consider as your ‘core work’ then do your sums to see if it will be more cost-effective, or give you other advantages, to bring this work in-house.
WHO (would this role be ideal for?)
6. Start internally
Always promote internally where you can, to give people the opportunity to stretch and develop. There will be situations where you need to hire external people at more senior levels but if you show your team that you’re investing in their development where you can, this will go a long way. Even if you truly believe that a role is beyond someone’s current capabilities, asking them whether they’re interested in that role will give you an idea of their aspirations and help you to have a conversation that says “The time isn’t right for you now but we will do ‘x’ if you do ‘y’ to help get you there in the future”.
Something to remember: sometimes identifying the need for one new role will cause changes to several other roles as you try to ‘level-up’ people’s responsibilities and keep stretching and motivating them.
7. Attitude wins the day
Always value attitude over experience. Decide whether you would benefit from training someone up from scratch or whether you have no clue and need someone to bring the skills with them. Whilst you can always help someone grow their skills and knowledge, it rarely happens that someone will ‘grow’ a new attitude.
If you have any warning bells in the recruitment process, ask questions around your concerns but don’t ignore a bad attitude. A bad hiring decision will cost you far more in the long run, in terms of time, money and wasted effort for others in your team.
8. Laws of attraction
Stop thinking about ‘recruiting’ or ‘hiring’ people and start thinking about ATTRACTING them. Did you ever look for your ideal partner by going into a pub and shouting out what you have to offer someone? Well, maybe you did, and you could let us know how that worked out for you. Set up an ‘always on’ presence on social media to be attractive to potential new team members. If someone saw your business and wanted to work there, but there wasn’t a vacancy, are you doing enough to encourage them to speak to someone anyway?
If you have a role for someone, you can stay in touch with them or recommend them to another company who are likely to return the favour to you in the future. You need multiple channels to attract candidates in exactly the same way as you need multiple marketing channels. Use any recruitment exercises to give them a realistic idea of what it would be like to work with you and another opportunity to share how great the role is!
9. Who needs recruiters when you have a team?
Your team are the best ‘recruiters’ that you can have. We all know that referrals from current clients generate the warmest leads and the same is true for new team members. Another bonus is that it’s not in their interest to recommend that idiots come and work in their team. The only watch-out here is that you don’t create a team of very similar people and miss out on the benefits that diversity brings to a team. Whilst similar-minded people might get on well, ‘groupthink’ can set in and you could find yourself with a lack of fresh ideas and challenge within the team.
How often do you ask your team if they know anyone that would be a great fit for the business? You should do this, even if you don’t have a role in mind as you might meet someone so fantastic that you decide to create a role for them, even if it’s not straight away. The highest levels of trust are generated by hearing someone in our network or inner circle recommend something, rather than a glossy ad somewhere.
There is a cost that comes with recruitment so balance up the opportunity cost of the time it would take you to find someone (trawling on LinkedIn for hours) versus the spend on a recruiter: choose a recruiter who prioritises quality over quantity of candidates. Make sure you do your homework to find the right recruiter and be prepared to invest your time to build their understanding of your business & culture.
10. Onboarding (like a boss)
Create the best onboarding experience for your new employee. Remember that the employee experience starts from the first touchpoint a candidate has with you (right back at the attraction stage). Take every opportunity you can to explain or show them the culture and give them opportunities to experience this first-hand by meeting the team. Start building trust from day one by being open and honest and letting them know when things haven’t gone to plan, or mistakes have been made.
Constantly think about how to build a personal connection and sense of belonging with them, way before day one. Text messages get a much better response than emails for example. Replace a probation period with more frequent one-to-one’s to give the message that you’re looking for them to succeed, rather than to fail.
To sum it all up, think carefully about what you actually need to be doing, be open-minded around how the role could be done so that you find the right person. Make sure that you don’t start off with the solution in mind. Think about attracting new members as something that you’re always focused on, rather than a vacancy-based approach and when you find the ideal candidate, put a lot of effort into helping them succeed.
Even if you don’t have a need for a new role now, you can put a plan together about where the need for a new role will be and make sure that you’re switching towards always attracting new people.
Sarah Tomson is the Founder of ‘Real Conversations Work’, a team focused on developing founders and their teams to have real conversations and create workplaces that people thrive in, through workshops and one-to-one coaching.