Planning for growth or adding new services inevitably leads to “we need more people!”. But before you dig out those job advertisements, or call your favorite recruiter, ask yourself these 4 critical questions:

  • 1. Do you have a management problem or a hiring problem? Did the last person leave because of their manager?
  • 2. Do you have a turnover problem or a not-enough-turnover problem, or a little of both?
  • 3. Full time? Part time? Or is there a productivity problem that could be addressed by training the current team (or replacing a weak performer)?
  • 4. Do you have an “up-and-comer” who would love to take on new duties, and view this new opportunity as a reason to stay and grow with your company?

These are the four most important questions you can ask, and my bet is that you haven’t asked them about your team in a long time. The “management problem” is the number one reason people leave their jobs and often concerns the trusted employee who’s been with you for a long time (perhaps since the beginning). They “have your back” and “run the place” so you can get out there and grow your business. You may be aware there are issues with the way they handle day-to-day management issues—and you need to re-engage with individual employees to find out what’s really going on. You need to conduct exit interviews, particularly if you suspect your trusted manager is driving people away.

One customer recently came face-to-face with this issue which cost her at least one key employee. Her long-time, trusted and highly valued manager is much more structured, inflexible and restrictive than she had envisioned her culture to be. The owner is re-engaging and should be able to re-shape the “actual” culture and keep her trusted long-time employee. The point is, she did not have a recruiting problem, she had an unresolved management problem. Does some aspect of this story sound familiar?

Customers often tell me, “we don’t have a turnover problem, the average tenure on my team is 7 years” (or some other impressive number). I get it, that means you are not spending time and money recruiting, your team is probably loyal and you trust one another. It may also mean: new ideas are not being considered, people are filling roles that could be replaced with new technology, and roles that ought to be added to your team are not even on the radar. My own story is a good example of this. Nearly two years ago I hired Sue MacArthur to do our recruiting. Her presence on the team has been a breath of fresh air because from day one she asked good questions about our process, procedures and policies for recruiting. The guy who had been filling that role for the past 10 years (me), hadn’t taken the time to document those things, and we lacked a tangible program that could be replicated and improved. The good news is that over the past year we have come a long way thanks to a fresh set of eyes. We are more productive and have documented processes to use in future training and improvements.

Your young staff are your future. Before hiring a new person, at least consider redirecting the time and money you would normally budget for recruiting, hiring and getting a new hire up to speed—toward mentoring your most promising staff  members. Invest your valuable time or the valuable time of your senior staff, engaging with and training your team, and watch for the payoff in productivity. At the same time, take a hard look at staff that are less productive and resistant to change—consider letting them go to make room for a more productive replacement. This is not easy, but if you want to reduce turnover and improve your bottom line, you have no choice.

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