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Hiring employees for SMEs
- Here is the big idea
- Consider your options – fulltime employees, freelancers, interns?
- Craft your job description. Find candidates online and offline.
- Always take passion into consideration. At this stage, you want your team to believe in your vision as much as you do.
Who you work with matters. You want employees who are motivated, dedicated and passionate. You want them to be good at what they do but also fit in with your company culture.
But how to find them?
Businesses have been trying to find right people since the beginning of time. Many owners worry that all the good prospects will be working for large, established companies, but this is not the case. Many prefer working for smaller companies where they can make more of an in impact.
As your business begins to grow and you recognise that you cannot do everything yourself, you are likely to start thinking about bringing on employees. It is possible to find good people for SMEs, and we are here to help.
Consider hiring options
Before you hire a new graduate, decide if you really need to hire. Maybe you don’t need a full-time employee. Maybe a freelancer would do, or maybe you just need to get organised. Either way, there is no magic formula for when it’s time to hire.
If you don’t have time to work on your business — moving it forward and planning for the future – because you’re too busy maintaining it, then it’s probably time to look into hiring someone new.
There isn’t a magic position that you should hire for, either. Some companies may need an accountant whilst others may need someone in marketing. Simply assess what your weaknesses are and try to hire for those.
Freelancers can be hired as often or as seldom as you like for writing, SEO, web development and other areas. The biggest pro is that you don’t have to pay them a regular salary and can hire them as needed. The con is that they are not working with your business every day, so it may be difficult for them to understand your culture and your needs. They’re also working for a living so smaller jobs may be pushed aside for bigger, better paying contracts.
Contractors are usually hired for an extended period of time ─ more time than a freelancer but less than a standard employee. Often they are hired for a particular project. You might hire a contractor to produce a mobile app for your company. Contractors are self-employed and are not paid through PAYE. They do not have employment rights of employees. Before making a hire here, double-check with Gov.uk’s standards regarding what constitutes a contractor versus a regular employee.
Employees are going to come into the office every day to help you with your business. They’re likely to be as dedicated as you are. The key is to make sure you’re organised enough to take them on, and that you can provide them with enough work. All employees work under an employment contract, which means they have right to maternity and paternity leave and pay, Statutory Sick pay and other standard benefits.
Interns and work placements
Interns are usually inexperienced and inexpensive, making them a great option for SMEs. Be careful, though ─ interns can be more work than they are worth. Unless you are invested in helping someone with their career, you are unlikely to get anything out of hiring an intern. As for wages and rights, work placements do not have their own legal statute. Instead, they must fall into the category of worker, volunteer,or employee. If the intern is classified as a worker, they need to make National Minimum Wage. These wages do not apply if it is a student internship or work experience placement, or if it they are working for a charity or voluntary organisation. Before you hire an intern, consult Gov.uk to ensure everything is in order.
No matter who you choose to hire, you need to make sure you are paying fair wages. The National Minimum Wage rate depends on age and whether the individual is considered an apprentice. Currently, the standard rates in the UK are as follows:
If you have a question about the National Minimum Wage in your area, then try out the calculator provided by Gov.uk:
Tips for hiring freelancers and contractors
If you decide to hire freelancers or contractors rather than full-time employees, there are a number of things to keep in mind to make sure the working relationship runs smoothly:
- Provide clear guidelines to any freelancer you work with. Be clear about what you want, or else you might not get it. It’s not just for you- freelancers hate when they’re clients can’t decide. If you feel strongly about the way a blog post is written or how your brand is represented in a video, you better say so. Don’t change the scope of the project once it’s already started.
- Pay fairly and on time. Freelancers charge what they charge. The best cost more than those who produce mediocre stuff. It can be tough to shell out cash, but once you agree to a freelancer’s terms, stick to them. Pay fairly, on time, and without complaint
- Remember that a freelancer is not a full-time employee. Freelancers work for you, but they aren’t full-time employees. That means you don’t get to dictate their hours and can’t expect them to return your calls in five minutes. Freelancers make money by working for multiple people. Sorry -- you are not the centre of their universe.
- Give honest feedback. If you’re not happy with a freelancer’s work, it can be tough to say so. But, honest feedback is the only way a freelancer is going to understand what you want. Be clear about what you like and don’t like so they can refine their work.
- Check the laws. You need to make sure that you are adhering to the laws surrounding freelancers, workers and contractors. For more information on these laws, visit Gov.uk’s section on employing people.
- ask around. Some of your friends and acquaintances might know someone who’s perfect for the job, or they might surprise you and be interested themselves.
- Write a great job description. Your job description will ultimately determine who ends up in your applicant pool. Since you’re probably hoping the right person ends up there, you need to craft your job description very carefully.
- Find places to disseminate that job listing. We already mentioned friends, family and acquaintances. Try job search sites like Monster, reed, and jobsite and look around for niche job boards for a particular skill or industry. You can also advertise your job for free on Gov.uk.
- Get an onboarding process. Onboarding is a method of ensuring that your new employee is caught up-to-speed and can be productive as soon as possible. Having effective onboarding helps your new hire to become a contributing employee as quickly as possible.
- You need help with certain tasks that would be learning opportunities for someone who is inexperienced.
- You don’t have enough work to give a full-time employee, but you have a bit too much for a freelancer.
- The work is easy enough so that it can be picked up quickly, but not so easy that it would be incredibly boring.
- You don’t have the time or expertise to teach them and help them as they go.
- You’re unsure if you’ll be able to give them enough work for the hours you want to hire them.
- You don’t have any funds to pay them or are unwilling to help them get college credit.
The idea of hiring a freelancer or contractor is nice, but where do you find the right ones? The best thing to do is ask your network if they know of anyone. If you can’t find anyone that way, then it’s time to look at other options. Here are some good places to find freelancers and contractors:
Referrals and recommendations
When it comes to freelancers, start by asking your connections. Many of the most talented freelancers also have full-time jobs. Because of this, many aren’t on freelance websites. Even if a friend’s web designer is too busy, he or she likely knows another talented designer that could do the job.
Blogs and sites you love
If you read an article you love, especially in a publication in your industry, contact the writer. These writers are the experts and their name is already out there. Many of these writers will take on freelance work, even if they have a day job.
Elance and Odesk (recently merged) require wading through the muck, but prices are reasonable and there’s a wide range of talent.
If you’re looking to complete a specific task—whether it be menial or sophisticated-- post it on PeoplePerHour. You can probably find someone to do it.
Freelancer.co.uk has freelancers of all kinds-- writers, designers, developers and more. You can post any project that you need completed and you will receive proposals from the sites freelancers.
ProBlogger is a site laden with info for freelance writers, so it’s ripe with writers reading up on best practices and looking for jobs. The site is run by Darren Rowse, a guru for writers and bloggers.
If you want to get freelancers by recommendation, Coworks is a great option. You can use the platform to find freelancers for design, writing, photo, and web projects. Unlike many other freelancing sites, Coworks doesn’t charge commission. That means you can bring freelancers you already work with on to the site with no charge.
The professional networking site is popular for a reason. Visit freelance groups, make searches, and see who your connections know.
You’re swamped and you recognise that it’s time to get help. If there’s an area that you and your co-founder can’t fit into your schedule or simply can’t do, it’s time to hire in-house.
When it’s time to hire people, first think about skills. You want people who know what they’re doing.
But you also want people who are dynamic team players, people who set the bar high, and then surpass it. You want people who love what they do. But it’s not just that. You also need them to fit into your Brand’s DNA.
Before you start the hiring process, make sure you have a well-defined role. Expectations need to be clear from the get-go so that the person isn’t surprised about what it means to be a part of your team.
Want people that fit into your mould? Ask people that already understand what your company is about. You’re better off asking “who knows who” than sifting through resumes or hiring a recruiting firm. Exhaust your own connections to make sure the perfect person isn’t someone you already know.
Consider past experience
What did this person do in the past? Did they work for another cool startup? If so, why did they leave? Maybe they have interesting and out-of-the-box experiences, like participating in an improv group or climbing Kilimanjaro. Make sure that the person’s past experience fits with what you do and who you are.
A prospective employee might be a fun person to hang out with, but are they passionate about what your company does? Are they excited about their specialty? You want people who are bursting at the seams with ideas for how the company can improve. If you’ve hired a sales guy who mentions that a job is just a means to an end, he might not be the passionate person that you want on board.
Do not go too fast
After months of searching, it can be tempting to make a hire based on skills alone, even if the person is a bad fit for company culture. Though you may feel desperate, adding a bad fit to your team is like poisoning a well – just one drop can ruin everything! You want to hire those who are easy to work with, positive, and passionate. Just because a prospect isn’t what you expected doesn’t mean they’re a bad fit. Someone might have all the qualities you’re looking for but require a little extra training – and they might be worth hiring! Alternatively, someone might have more experience than you’re looking for or be coming from a totally different role. It’s a little like dating – if you’re not open to the world’s amazing possibilities, you could end up alone. Remember that diversity is a huge asset.
Hire people who aren’t your friends
A lot of start-ups have been criticized for using the term “culture fit” to mask discrimination. This is why it’s important to be open-minded. Don’t just hire people because you think they’d make a great new best friend. Let’s say you and your co-founder absolutely love sports. You live, dream, and breathe football. If you interview someone and they loathe sports, or they just don’t care, that doesn’t mean they’re a bad fit. Just because you can’t bring them to a game doesn’t mean they’re a bad choice.
Hiring an intern is a great option for start-ups and SMEs. They’re inexpensive, teachable, and, if they’re students seeking work experience, are likely to sign on for a full-time job after they graduate. If they’re not so great, it’s easy to set an internship period and move on after they’re done.
An intern has a freshness that seasoned professionals don’t have. Often, they’re curious and willing to take on work that you see as tedious or that you simply don’t have time for.Interns have a lot of benefits. They can help you out whilst expanding their skill set, and they give you an opportunity to mentor someone who is less experienced than you.
But there are many times when internships are not appropriate. If you want an intern for “free labour,” then think again. Interns are usually temporary, so if you’re going to be frustrated that you’ve taught an intern a lot only to see them move on, then this is not a fit for you. If you want an intern to do all the most boring tasks and can’t foresee that you’ll be able to truly teach them anything, then consider finding a freelancer or part-time worker to help.
When to hire interns
When should you hire an intern? There’s no magic time that’s right. Interns aren’t as independent so you may need lots of time to manage them. On the other hand, if they’re sharp, they can get going on a role if you give them responsibilities and help them along.
Do hire an intern if:
Don’t hire an intern if:
How to hire interns
The process for hiring interns is a bit different than hiring full-time employees or freelancers, simply because they’re often still in education. They frequent different types of job boards than seasoned professionals and have different types of goals.
First, write a job description. Make sure the description is realistic for someone who is relatively inexperienced. Consider whether you will pay the intern—and how much. If you decide you cannot afford to pay the intern, then make sure you meet the criteria for student work placement.
To find the best candidates, start by contacting regional universities. These unis almost always have work experience programmes. They’ll get your internship in front of students, and they’ll often assist you in finding the perfect person.
Hire the right interns
Once you’ve decided you want to hire an intern, you’ll be concerned with finding the right one. Follow the same steps as you would in hiring a full-time employee, checking for culture fit and making sure they’ll be able to do what you need, but keep in mind that the intern won’t have the same kind of experience, and may have less developed views about what they want in a job. Interns often come from university where the focus and priorities are much different than at a small business or start-up.