Many consultants agree that good employees can play a major role in your
business's success. Very often the image and reputation of your company
depend on how customers view your employees. An employee's attitude,
appearance and skills can make or break your business.
"One of the toughest parts of starting my furniture sales business,"
says one owner, "was finding good, trustworthy employees. The other tough
part was managing them. Although good employees are one of a company's
greatest assets, all employees need to be motivated."
The hiring process should not be haphazard. Before you begin, you
need to define the job, the experience or education level required and what
you are willing to pay--salary and benefits. If you haven't formulated a
personnel policy, now is the time. You need to consider the number of
hours to be worked each week, the number of days per week, holiday work and
the time and method for overtime pay; fringe benefits; vacation and sick
leave; time off for personal needs; training; retirement; a grievance
procedure; performance review and promotion; and termination.
Employment and training procedures should be established so that you
have a better chance of hiring the right employee for the right job and
that you hire employees to fill in on those areas where you may be weak.
There are a number of sources to which you can turn for job
candidates: classified advertising, employment agencies, temporary
agencies, state employment agencies, unions, schools, community
organizations, former employees or friends and family.
Rather than making your selection based on intuition, you need to
follow a process that enables you to determine the candidate's worthiness
for the position. Review the candidate's resume, application and work
samples; test the applicant if appropriate for the position; interview the
candidate; and check his or her work references.
When interviewing, don't make the common mistake of asking what the
candidate has done; rather, ask how the candidate did it. Interview the
candidate, not his or her resume. Moreover, don't neglect to assess three
essential factors you won't find on anyone's resume: intellect,
interpersonal skills and motivation level.
When interviewing, it is also important to know the laws related to
job discrimination. According to one expert, there are two simple rules to
test whether or not to ask a question: (1) Is it job related? If it isn't,
don't ask. (2) Is the question presented only to a specific type of
candidate? If it is, don't ask.
When it comes time for the hiring decision, undoubtedly your sense of
people will come into play; your ability to separate "good" employees from
"bad" one. However, a few words of warning: All too often, consultants
say, employers hire people they believe will turn around, only to find a
difficult battle on their hands. Time is too precious to waste on anyone
who cannot contribute 100 percent.
Once you have carefully selected your new employee, it is important to
create a good working relationship. Open-mindedness, patience,
communication skills, willingness to listen and other human relations
skills play a vital role in the development of such relationships. "Be
aware of individual personalities," says Ed Lohlein, owner of Budget Copy.
"We maintain an 'open door' policy by talking to our employees as human
Says another owner, "Hiring good people, developing appropriate
relationships and making them part of the operation are the keys to a
And although you have been careful to hire the right person for the
job and are working hard to form rewarding relationships with your
employees, you can still be subject to problems. That is the nature of
business. Very often the problems you experience mirror those of society
Currently, employers are faced with the problem of drug abuse and drug
testing and with adhering to the new regulations set down by the 1986
Substance abuse costs American business about $100 billion a year in
lost production, according to the federal government. In 1980, a
government-sponsored study revealed that about 10 percent of the nation's
workforce was impaired by alcohol abuse.
While many large businesses have set up substance abuse programs, such
programs are too expensive for the small business owner. One consultant
recommends writing out a policy statement concerning drug and alcohol use
at work and coming to work in a drug or alcohol-induced state. He advises
that the policy should state that the use of drugs or alcohol on the job
are unacceptable and grounds for disciplinary action, including dismissal.
Another consultant suggests that the small business owner investigate
outside employee assistance programs as a way of offering help to troubled
employees at a relatively low cost. If no such provider is available in
the area, you may want to join with other local companies to create an
employee assistance program together.
The other major societal issue--hiring illegal immigrants--can have
significant impact on the operation of a small business. Under the
Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, employers must hire only U.S.
citizens and aliens authorized to work in the United States. Violators can
face stiff fines. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)
requires that you ask each new person hired the following questions: Are
you a U.S. citizen? Or, are you an alien lawfully authorized to work in the
United States? Their answers should be noted on your employment records.
The employer must attest under penalty of perjury--on a form provided
by the U.S. Attorney General--that he or she has verified by examining the
documents specified in the law, that each new person hired is authorized to
work in this country.
Documents that satisfy the verification requirements include a U.S.
passport, certificate of U.S. citizenship, certificate of naturalization
and certain foreign pass-ports and resident alien cards. Documents such as
a Social Security card or birth certificate also are acceptable if examined
together with approved identification such as a driver's license.
Employers must keep the verification forms on file for three years
from the date of hire or for one year following the employee's separation
from service, whichever is later.
For further information on the new law, the INS has produced a
"Handbook for Employers," document number M274. Contact your local INS
office to receive a copy.
Reprinted from the United States Small Business Administration
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