Grow Your Own: How Small Businesses Can Recruit and Develop Success

May 9, 2023, Written by Jim Miley

It’s unanimous; we’re in an employee’s job market with no end in sight for employers struggling to recruit and retain good people.

I read articles, listen to business pundits, and talk to business owners about their strategies for recruiting talent. My firm serves as the recruiting resource for nearly all of our business coaching clients so we are on the front line of finding and interviewing candidates that will support the business needs of our customers. Then there is our own substantial growth, so we have to recruit and develop staff for our internal needs.

If you’re reading this post, you likely have your own first-hand experience with the difficulties surrounding sourcing good employees so let’s move on to what you can do to recruit and develop a successful team.

Recruiting at a Small Business

Are small businesses at a disadvantage against larger firms with regard to recruiting and training?

Given that we are all working to find employees who will fulfill the requirements of any given job and contribute positively to our company culture, it’s pretty common for a candidate to meet one criterion but not the other. They may have the experience to do the job well but not be a good culture fit or they may feel like a great contribution to the culture but have no demonstrated experience or knowledge to support the requirements of the job.

As a small business owner searching for good staff, you may feel a sense of exasperation with your search… where are all the good candidates?

I know the feeling well for both my own company and from our clients. The struggle to find good people has often led to good dialogue surrounding exactly what we are looking for in top candidates, and here is where you will see a difference between large companies and many small companies.

Small companies tend to pursue candidates that are completely ready to meet all job requirements and culture factors on day one; while large companies tend to take a more long-term view on whether the candidate can grow into a role within a reasonable period of time. I argue that small companies are at a disadvantage against large company recruiting, to the extent that they choose to be by their decisions.

Choose to Develop Your Team

Small businesses need to choose to make employee development a priority just like large companies do. Many clients say; “We don’t have the time or resources to wait for an employee to start contributing. We need their production right away.” I don’t know who coined the phrase, but an old associate of mine used it often; “You never have time to do it right but you always have time to do it twice.” While small business owners never feel they have the time or resources to wait for an employee to grow into a role, they always have time to search for a top candidate, pay a premium if the candidate looks really good, find out the hard way that the candidate is not perfect, then search for ways to support or replace the imperfect candidate that looked so good through the interview process.

I’m not saying small businesses should not search outside for good talent; we should. I am saying that small businesses can and should develop their employees into key roles. Developing employees into key roles includes recognizing you have the option to recruit new employees possessing the raw skills and aptitude to grow into the position you need to fill. We may not be able to change the national labor market but we can change our strategy for finding long-term employees.

Aptitude, work ethic, character, and attitude are the characteristics that should be at the top of our requirements for the job. It is these characteristics that drive your culture and determine long term success of both your business and the individual team member. Outside of key leadership or unique technical skills, it is rare that you can’t develop and teach a good employee to grow.

Return on Your Employee Development Investment

There are many benefits to growing your own top performers.

  • You train them into your process and procedures
    • Better to train them once than to have to untrain bad habits
  • Employees without a lot of baggage tend to positively adapt culturally
    • Fresh ideas are good for culture; bruises and battle scars may not be
  • You increase team loyalty when you demonstrate internal growth opportunities
    • Loyalty is at a premium in an employee’s market so you need to nurture any business discipline that breeds loyalty within the team

How Does a Small Business Develop Staff?

Skills Training and Organizational Development resources are industries that have exploded in recent decades. Covid accelerated the creation of remote learning opportunities making employee education available for nearly anything your business might need.

Make employee development a key element of your small company culture to grow your own talent and nurture career satisfaction along with team loyalty by choosing to make training and development a dominant feature of your management.

Utilize apprentice-style relationships within your staff to cross-train and develop employees. Have formal employee training and development plans for every employee in your company. Target training and development plans for specific business needs. Integrate employee development with pay raises and bonuses where the staff clearly sees the relationship between their contribution to development and their opportunity for financial reward.

While a tight labor market makes recruiting more challenging, you can choose to overcome the challenges by making training and employee development a competitive advantage.

Grow your own.

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Jim Miley

As a Business Coach, Jim brings a broad background of operational and sales management skills and expertise to help small business owners grow their business and reach their highest potential. He has 30 years of field-proven professional experience.

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