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When is the right time to hire an employee?

9 key questions to ask before taking on staff

Taking on staff is a big commitment, and you'll need to ask yourself some important questions to make sure you are hiring for the right reasons. So how do you know when it's the appropriate time to hire someone? And how do you go about making sure you employ the right people who will represent your business well and help you grow?

Finding the right time

In an ideal world, it's just before all the plates you've been balancing come crashing down around you and you let a client or customer down badly. In other words, the decision to recruit shouldn't really be made when you're in a crisis situation. If your back is up against the wall, you're much more likely to take someone on because they're immediately available, rather than because they're the right person for the job.

Identifying the tipping point

There's no magic formula to help you decide when it's the right time to recruit. The circumstances and the timing will be different for every business. The key, however, is to find the individual tipping point for your business. It's about sitting back, taking a long hard look at what you do and how you do it and thinking carefully about exactly what difference employing someone will make. If you can, it's good to think beyond your immediate needs and to look ahead. A difficult and ever-changing economic climate makes long-term planning tricky, but hopefully you will have at least some idea of how you want the business to develop and where you would like to be in a year's time. In other words, the recruitment decisions you make should ideally both help you manage better today and also support your plans for tomorrow. So think about recruitment against the backdrop of your business plan. What skills and experience does your company need if it is to grow? What can you realistically manage yourself with your current skill-set and where do you need additional expertise?

Key questions to ask

Try asking yourself the following key questions.

  • Why? Are you thinking about taking on more people to help you grow your business or because you can no longer manage the workload yourself?
  • Short or long-term issue? If you are struggling with an increased workload, is it a temporary issue (e.g. caused by a seasonal influx or a large-scale project) or is it likely to be a long-term trend?
  • People vs. processes. Do you need more people – or do you need to do things differently? Could you make better use of technology, for example, to get tasks done more quickly and efficiently? Could you find ways to streamline some of your processes to cut down on unnecessary admin?
  • Skills and expertise. Do you need people to bring new skills and expertise into the business to complement your own? If so, are you clear about what these skills are and exactly how they will help your business grow?
  • Could you outsource? Do you need someone to take over a particular area or set of tasks (e.g. book-keeping or marketing)? Is there enough work to do in these areas to justify a permanent employee, or might outsourcing to a specialist be a better solution?
  • Could you learn new skills yourself? Are you considering hiring because there are areas of the business where you feel out of your comfort zone (sales or finance, for instance)? Is recruitment the right answer – or do you need to learn how to do these things yourself?
  • Implications. What are the practical implications of taking someone on? Where will they work from, for example? Do you have room to accommodate them and have you taken into account the financial implications of possibly having to buy new equipment or furniture?
  • What can you cut back on? Is there anything you need to stop doing? Are you in danger, for example, of taking people on to maintain a line of work which is time-consuming but actually not very profitable?
  • Is it viable? What will happen if you don't hire anyone? Is maintaining the status quo a viable option?

These questions should help you weigh up whether it's the right time to recruit, and will give you a clearer picture of what the implications of taking staff on will be. It is really important to make sure you are hiring for the right reasons. Don't fall into the trap of taking someone on because it makes you feel important, because you think it makes the business look more credible or because you've met someone you know would do a great job. However, if you've been through the questions above and still feel that you need to recruit – go for it! Taking on staff is a big decision, but if it's justified, it means your business is healthy and growing, a good step in the right direction.

Taking on Staff, published by Crimson Publishing, is available to buy now


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