Expert HR advice for start-ups from an industry pro

Founder of HR180, Claire Morley-Jones has a wealth of tips and tricks for finding, managing and motivating people. Startups’ meets the HR professional ahead of her Talent Masterclass discussion…

From sending out handmade felt hearts as thanks to her employees to building a team guided by strong company values, Claire Morley-Jones doesn’t just advise clients on the best HR practices – she lives and breathes great HR within her own business.

Having founded Leeds-based human resource outsourcing and consultancy company HR180 over 10 years ago, starting with three clients and £2,000 in the bank, Morley-Jones has scaled the business to achieve year-on-year growth and impressive retention rates.

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In fact, a third of HR180’s clients have been with the company for five years or more – evidence of the business’ ability to deliver results across support services such as training, management, mediation, and health and safety.

Given her success and reputation in the HR field, Morley-Jones was perfectly aligned to become a Talent for the Plusnet Pioneers programme; a series of motivational events, workshops and advice to help start-ups and small business owners created by business broadband and phone provider Plusnet, in partnership with Startups.co.uk.

As part of her role as a Talent Pioneer, Morley-Jones will be speaking on a panel discussion at our upcoming Talent Masterclass in Manchester where she will share insider advice on how to avoid hiring mistakes and how to attract, and retain, talent.

To whet your appetite ahead of the free event on March 15, we got Morley-Jones on the phone for an exclusive interview to seize some essential HR advice for start-ups and small businesses.

So, what are you waiting for? Read on for Morley-Jones’ ‘how to’ expert advice and, if you like what you read, make sure you book your free place at the Talent Masterclass here!

How to hire someone that’s right for your business

“Start-ups and small businesses are [often] not clear enough about their own culture and who they are.

“What you, as an employer, need to do is to make sure that people are aligned to your business straight away and that you know who you are as a business. [This should be reflected] in the job spec, advertising etc. If you have a standard job advert on a standard job site, you’re trying to find a standard person and if you don’t know what you stand for then that makes it more to find the right employee for your business.

“We do a strength test [HR180’s in-house tool to help businesses increase efficiency] for our clients and it’s eye-opening because some businesses have great processes, set-up and lines of communication but, when it comes to vision – who you are, what employees should believe in – they have no idea.

“If people aren’t aligned to your business objectives then it won’t work.”

Be clear on who you’re looking for but don’t limit your talent pool

“We often find that employers are too fixed on absolute perfection, or they’re not clear on what they’re looking for.

“For instance, one of our clients wanted to hire an office co-ordinator to manage stationery, and they also wanted this person be a PA to the directors, to help with accounts, and to have health and safety expertise. They were setting themselves up to fail on many fronts!

“New business owners think they can get someone to take on lots of different roles – and in a small business everybody does need to roll up their sleeves and muck in – but you need to have specialist people for specialist roles.

“Another example is that we’ll have clients that want the [prospective] employee to have knowledge of the industry the business is in. Say, for instance, a construction company wants an office administrator, they will also say that the person needs knowledge of construction – but, why do they? If they have the skills for the role they will be able to transfer these and learn new skills.”

How to approach the process of recruiting new staff

“These are the first steps in my opinion:

  1. Take your time – Everyone thinks they need someone right now. It does take between eight to 12 weeks to make a hire, and sometimes longer with notice period.
  1. Be clear about who you’re looking for – Most HR professionals like me would advise that you should hire for attitude and train for skill. If the person has the right attitude and behaviour and you can train them [that would be great]. We train up all our HR advisors.
  1. Be totally committed and get the best person that your business requires – Don’t just do one recruitment round and hire the best of a bad bunch. Don’t go straight to the recruitment agency or job board [either]– think more personal. For instance, say you were looking for a part-time local role you could put ads up in your local GP, your local nursery, or try beer mats for certain roles. We were looking for drivers for a local business and printed out beer mats for local pubs and working men’s clubs [and that worked]. It’s about being a bit more creative. The usual stuff gets the usual result and normally a standard person may meet your skills but won’t be a good fit for your culture. LinkedIn is a good fit but often, depending on pay grade, you can only search for people in your contacts so you’re limiting your pool in terms of diversity and availability.”

How to recruit senior staff or those at director level

“Always look for passion and entrepreneurialism. A lot of our clients get caught up with CVs and are impressed by the fact that a person may have worked for a big corporate. We have to tell them that this could actually have limited the person’s ability to think outside the box, they may have only had to work in one strict position and they might not be willing to roll their sleeves up as a small business requires.”

Don’t look for your doppelganger

“You can’t expect them to be you. Instead, consider the following:

  • Do they have commercial skills and entrepreneurialism and have they been able to demonstrate this?
  • Can they lead? You want someone who can manage.”

Know their limitations too.

“You should know how they deal with and manage stress which, at director level, there often will be lots of!”

Want more HR advice like this? Claire Morley-Jones will be speaking at our exclusive Talent Masterclass on Wednesday 15 March 2017 at the Victoria Warehouse Hotel in Manchester. Get your free ticket here, places are limited.

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