Starting a Business – It’s Time To Hire Your First Employee – Here’s how to do it
By Alexandra Hadfield, Harambee SME Sector Lead
As if starting a new business weren’t scary enough, the next step is to grow it by hiring someone. Here’s the logical series of events that will make the process less scary.
GET YOUR DUCKS IN A ROW – and be realistic about it
- Have you got the cash flow to pay an employee on time, every time? You can’t hire unless you’re sure you can pay.
- Be specific about what you want help with otherwise you’re going to have an undirected resource and expense floating around your business. Make a list of the tasks you want to hand over – you’ll be amazed at how this clarifies your thinking.
- Do you need someone full-time or part-time? When you work out how long it would take to complete the tasks you’ve listed, factor in training time and their learning curve.
START THE PROCESS – it’s easier than you think
- Write a job description from the list of tasks you’ve already created. Be clear, accurate and specific.
- Identify how you would like to recruit either through recruitment specialist or advertisement. Be specific about the qualifications, skills and experience you want. Remember that hiring a staff member, especially if it’s the first person you’re bringing into your business, is as much about their attitude as about their abilities. Certain qualities are just as important as a degree or experience: a can-do attitude, enthusiasm, discipline, humour and a willingness to learn.
- Prepare to interview candidates. Their perception of you is just as important as yours of them so make sure you’ve got a clear and concise sales pitch. You read that right – you’ve got to sell the company just as you would to a potential customer.
- In a large business, someone who is not pulling their weight is not so obvious. In a small business, they will be obvious immediately and can have a big negative impact. Be clear on their role and potential impact on the business.
- Do your due diligence. Check their ID, proof of education and qualifications, proof of previous employment if any, and references including phone numbers. It’s essential to check whether the candidate is able to access transport to get to work. Are there any checks that need to be done in your business sector, such as police clearance? If so, don’t hire without them!
- Make sure you comply with employment law. You need a formal offer letter and a formal employment contract – did you know that people are less likely to leave a company on a whim if they have an employment contract in place? Harambee offers clients a free HR toolkit and you can get standard templates online which you adapt to suit yourself. A word of warning: don’t include anything you don’t understand!
BRACE YOURSELF – your life is about to change, ultimately for the better!
- Start off by on-boarding the candidate properly. Remember they will be nervous initially so be gentle.
- It might seem obvious but it’s important to prepare a proper workspace before your newbie arrives. You can’t expect someone to feel they belong if you don’t give them a tangible place to belong to: they need their own desk, chair and supplies.
- It might be just the two of you but welcome them formally and give them a proper induction into your business. Clarify expectations, go through their role again, be clear about what training and support is available and when it will happen, make sure they know where everything is and how it works, introduce them formally to customers, suppliers and neighbours, etc.
- Here comes the hard part: delegate. And trust. You’ve got to do it!
- Make sure you include a probationary period – usually three months. Manage this by scheduling regular feedback and review sessions. Start with what they’re doing well, then get into what they need to improve. You can’t provide constructive feedback if you haven’t given clear guidelines to begin with… but you knew that, right?
It’s really not that scary. And organisations like Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator are there to hold your hand through the process when you’re ready to take the plunge.
Harambee is a not-for-profit social enterprise with extensive experience building solutions and innovations that can solve the global youth unemployment challenge. We partner with business, government, young people and many others who are committed to results that can work at scale.
We connect employers who are looking for entry-level talent to high-potential South African youth who are hungry for opportunity but lack the finances and networks needed to find jobs because they come from poor households. We tackle the youth unemployment challenge using data, innovation, partnerships and on-the-ground experience to build pragmatic, implementable solutions that get results.