There are many reasons why hiring a new staff member can end in abysmal failure.

Not only is a failed hiring attempt a waste of time and money, it also drains the firm of confidence and energy. We see companies fail at hiring new team members constantly, for several reasons.

The biggest reason is simple: Most entrepreneurs don’t know exactly what position they are filling.  They hire from a place of pain – work is not getting done, someone quit, everyone is overworked and “We need HELP!”  They may need to hire someone, but there is no clarity on what role needs to be added to the team.  Broad terms like “assistant,” “paralegal” and “marketing assistant” are too vague, and that is a BIG danger.  Having worked with over 400 small businesses, we see varying definitions for each of these job titles.  Does “assistant” mean this employee has a lot of client interaction on your behalf, or is the job more strategic – handling your scheduling, project management, etc.?  Is your paralegal involved in client meetings or doing all drafting?  Is your marketing assistant handling your blogging and social media, interacting with people, or reacting to all of the above at any given moment?

Before you even think of posting an ad or talking to a potential candidate, you must be VERY clear on the nitty-gritty specifics of what you are hiring for.  Otherwise you end up with a marketing person who in two weeks is drafting documents because the business is backlogged on work.  The new hire ultimately becomes confused, the entrepreneur is frustrated because she just doesn’t “get it,” and the story ends with the new hire leaving or the business owner feeling it’s time to part ways.

Often the bottleneck isn’t necessarily the area where the entrepreneur needs to hire.  A classic example: We assisted one law firm that wanted to hire a business owner to help get work moving in the probate department.  They had one business owner working in this area, but she was swamped, work was backlogged and they were desperate.  After completing our initial analysis call, we determined that another business owner was not needed to unblock the bottleneck of work.  For less than the cost of hiring one business owner, we instead hired two support team members.  One would take over the billing and a majority of the document drafting being handled by the business owner, and the other would be a client coordinator.  So much of the business owner’s time was being spent fielding “one quick question” from clients calling in, or having to make follow-up calls to obtain missing information – which always turned into a 30-minute phone call because the client would take advantage of the direct access to the business owner for some “quick advice.”  Having a support person with great people skills to proactively handle communicating with the clients not only freed up the business owner but also provided a better, more consistent service to the client.  Adding another business owner would have actually compounded the problem, leaving two business owners to spend time on lesser activities instead of making a support team member accountable for them while the single owner focused on the (ummm, revenue-producing) work only an owner can do.

In another instance, an entrepreneur contacted us for help hiring a new marketing assistant.  Cash flow was down and the firm needed someone to help drum up business ASAP!  Well, after completing our analysis, we all realized the marketing assistant had a tremendous opportunity to schedule for the boss to bring in new business.  Her problem was that his calendar was so jammed she couldn’t get anything scheduled for a prospect or marketing opportunity for six weeks out – and it had been this way for months.  People were going elsewhere because he had no capacity to assist them in a timely fashion.  So we created a plan to hire a drafting paralegal to take the majority of the drafting preparation off his plate, thus freeing up 10 hours a week on his calendar for new client meetings or marketing activities.  And this allowed clients to move more quickly through the process and enabled the firm to collect payments faster.

So often we see business owners place employment ads as a reaction to their overwhelm and frustration.  Unfortunately, without some analysis and intentional thought on what you really need, hiring someone only causes more pain.  This cycle eventually perpetuates the story that you can never get ahead, and that hiring is a torturous process.  That doesn’t have to be the reality of your situation!  Take some time to really think through what your firm needs to unlock its potential.  If you aren’t sure and need help on essentials for hiring, empowering and keeping great employees, contact us for a complimentary 30-minute discovery call.

Molly Hall