There are a few constants in business — taxes, emails getting lost in the spam folder, and of course, change, both in your business and in terms of your clients’ processes and needs. Sometimes it can feel like you’re on a hamster wheel: as soon as you manage to get a great team in place to deal with your existing clients’ needs, things start changing and you have to start again.
While your clients’ needs are always going to change, it doesn’t have to be an ordeal every time. With a little planning and some solid HR management, you can pivot with your clients instead of having to catch up with them.
5 Tips for Managing your Talent in Times of Change:
1. Look inside the business first
When your clients’ needs and processes start changing, it often highlights areas in your talent pool or business where things need to change. You might suddenly need someone with a particular skill, or even a new team to deal with a new type of project. When these needs show up, it can be tempting to simply hire someone to take care of it as fast as possible, but doing this often means that you miss out on talent you already have in-house. Sometimes, the solution to your new need could be as simple as switching someone into a new role.
2. Nurture where you can
Similarly, it’s almost always cheaper to nurture in-house talent than to hire new talent. If you’ve reviewed your current staff and none of them quite fit the bill for your new needs, but they’re not all that far off, it may be worth investing in the training they need to take over a new role. You might be surprised at just how fast they pick up the new requirements — many people get pigeonholed into doing things that they’re good at, at the expense of being able to do things they truly excel at. You might already have your next in-house hero without even knowing it!
3. Hire mindfully
OK, so you’ve surveyed your existing staff and developed where you can, but the writing’s on the wall: your clients’ new needs mean that you’re going to have to start hiring. Don’t make the mistake that so many small businesses make and start panic-hiring — while you might feel like you’re taking care of the problem by hiring quickly, chances are that you’re just setting yourself up for more problems down the road.
So even if it feels like you don’t have a moment to spare, find some time to get extremely clear on what exactly you need your new staff to do, write the job description accordingly, and actually use it as you’re vetting your applicants.
And don’t forget about doubling up, especially if you’re running a business with just a few staff! Unless you suddenly need to hire for an extremely specific role, chances are that your new person can fulfil several roles in the business. For example, if you need someone who can do creative work, and you also need someone who does admin, see if you can find someone who can do both of those things.
4. Get your team in on the process
One of the biggest mistakes managers and small business owners make when hiring is doing it as a top-down decision. While it is your business or department, you play a very different role than most of the other people in it, and chances are you won’t be working with the new staff in the same way they will.
Follow the example of well-known company culture champions and get your staff in on the hiring process. While you may still do the initial review of the applicants, you can then get your team to help out with interviewing and educating them about the company. They’ll also be able to give you invaluable feedback about the intangible aspects of working with this potential new hire; things like how well they fit with the team and their attitude. If nothing else, it will give you a chance to see how this new person reacts to new people and situations and break them out of “interview mode”.
5. Have a strategy for when things change again
Once the transition’s over and your new hires have settled in nicely, it’s really easy to rest on your laurels. But the truth is, your clients’ needs and processes are always going to be changing, so you’ll need to be prepared to shake things up again. The good part is that with a little planning it doesn’t have to be a last minute scramble. By reviewing your process for pivoting with your staff, you can identify the key points in the process, avoid any bottlenecks, and create a strategy for the next time things change.
Love solid business advice from people who get small businesses? Check out our archives.