SME Tips: How to Hire and Retain Competent Staff

By Nairametrics Financial Advocates | 5 min read
16th May 2018
SME Tips: How to Hire and Retain Competent Staff

In the face of prevalent unemployment crisis, more Nigerians are embracing entrepreneurship and establishing small and medium enterprises (SMEs). A 2014 CNN report ranks Nigeria as one of the countries with the highest number of entrepreneurs in Africa. But while the entrepreneurial spirit grips the country, startups have often been faced with the serious challenge of hiring and retaining competent staff.

The difference between whether a startup succeeds or fails is often dependent [among other factors], on the quality of staff hired. But this does not have to be the case should startup owners avail themselves the opportunity to know some tips on what to look out for when hiring.

  1. Set the stakes high

While advertising vacancies, SME owners must let their prospective employees understand that much is required of them. One of the ways to do this is by specifying the qualifications for the role, as well as the requirements. This may seem like a normal HR practice, but for entrepreneurs who are hiring their first set of employees, it is extra important. Remember that this is the first time that you are hiring people to work for you. You, therefore, must ensure to hire only those who can actually reduce the workload on you instead of adding to it. Moreover, in the face of widespread unemployment and millions of very qualified candidates who are in need of jobs, there is no reason why you should settle for less.

2. Conduct interviews to select the best

The recruitment process is a very painstaking and professional one. What this means, therefore, is that you must be your own HR manager (since you cannot afford an actual HR manager just yet), and ensure that you get right everything Human Resources would have done in a normal setting.

That said, your potential candidates must be thoroughly assessed. There are many ways to do this. For one, the assessment should start with their social media platforms. Check how they socialise online and how often they do so. Once again, this is important because you do not want to hire who will spend office hours Facebooking or sharing pictures on Instagram when they should be working.

After you must have screened potential candidates’ online platforms, it is now time to invite them for interviews. There should be more than one interview sections, with the first segment focusing on testing the candidates’ competence level relative to what your business is about. The second phase of the interview should come up after the candidate must have passed the first interview. This is the time for you to critically observe other things such as their levels of interpersonal skill, their willingness level for the job, and whether or not they are only interested in the job for the remuneration. You should also use the second interview to talk about the terms of employment.

                                                 MEASURE PASSION!

Skills and talent are important, but you must also take into account whether candidates are passionate about going to work for you. Did they do pre-interview research to inform themselves about your organization? Are they enthusiastic during the interview? Do they illustrate their talents and passion with stories of previous experience? It’s answers to these types of questions than can help evaluate whether or not potential employees really want to work for your company, or are simply looking for any old job.

Entrepreneurs should consider hiring their fans who will be committed

3. Hire your fans!

As an entrepreneur, it is important to develop a following; people who are not just customers, but who look up to you and want to be like you. Most entrepreneurs naturally know how to do this. But just in case you do not, one of the ways is by maintaining active social media handles, networking, appearing on radio talk shows and making public appearances where you give speeches.

One of the importance of developing a fanbase (asides them being your potential customers), is that they can also become your employees. An article published by Entrepreneur says that hiring your fans "means hiring people who will take ownership of the company and, as a result, will work harder than regular employees."  Also, fans are great for word-of-mouth marketing. If they truly enjoy working for your startup, they will tell their friends how great it is to work for you and eventually, these friends will want to work for you as well. If your fans do not have the right skills for your startup, you might consider finding a place for them anyway. Attitude can trump skills in some roles.”

4. Let every employee on your team interview potential candidates at the same time!

While interviewing potential candidates, there is need to make them feel welcome even without losing the whole essence of the interview. And one of the ways to do that is to allow everyone else already in your team to interview the prospective intake. This gives the potential employee the good impression that your office is more than just a work environment but also a home they should belong to. At the same time, it introduces the new intake to the different mix of people he or she will be working with; after all, there is always a dynamic workforce in every office whereby different people display different habits. As Nathaniel Koloc implied an article published on The Muse,  a potential candidate’s ability to work well with your team can be deduced from how he or she handles such an interview section.

5. Ensure a conducive work environment:

So let us assume that you have interviewed the most qualified candidates and employed them, there is no guarantee that they will stay if you treat them badly. This is why you must provide a conducive work environment for your employees. Pay according to industry standards, and be committed to availing them all the opportunities they need, as much as you can afford. Also, ensure that all reprimands are commensurate to the offence committed. Do not be the kind of boss you do not want anyone to be to you.

On a final note, always bear in mind that a valuable human resource is one of the greatest resources any company can have. Therefore, even though your employees are indispensable, learn to value them as much as you value all the other resources in your startup.

Writer: Emmanuel Abara Benson

Nairametrics Financial Advocates
Nairametrics is a leading financial resource company based in Nigeria with special focus on financial literacy, investor advocacy and business intelligence. was founded by Ugochukwu “Ugodre”Obi-chukwu and is owned by Nairametrics Financial Advocates.
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