The decision to hire more people is not made lightly by small businesses. When every business move can be felt across the entire business, it’s important to be informed and prepared.

Do you really need more people?

Here are a few questions to help you identify whether it’s time to put the ‘we’re hiring’ sign up.

  • Is your time as a business owner better spent focusing on other areas of the business? For example, are you on the shop floor when you should be doing the books? You may think you’re saving money by covering all the bases yourself, but it’s quite likely you’re impeding your own business growth. A part time shop assistant may be a better investment than a bookkeeper.
  • Is there a part of the business that could grow revenue with the addition of the right staff member? For example, as owner of a bakery, you might look at hiring a barista to sell coffees to people buying their daily bread.
  • Do you have a new product? Do you need to bring on someone who understands this and fills the skills gap? For example as a dental services business, would you benefit from being able to offer in-chair teeth whitening? Or as a chiropractor, would it make sense to hire a massage therapist?
  • Are your staff stressed or working overtime regularly? Perhaps they’ve mentioned the long hours they’re working to you recently? Covering the odd sick day or helping out when it’s busy is very different to managing the workload of two people. If your staff are stretched, they may look for work/life balance by leaving, and finding a new employee will cost you time and money.

Other options

Investing in more staff is a big decision in a small business. A great strategy for owners to help manage risk is to consider part-time, casual or seasonal roles. This gives you a good opportunity to review someone’s abilities before you hire them full time.

Create a part time role first if the cash flow can only cover someone two days a week, and increase the hours as the role delivers extra revenue and opportunities to grow. If you have a specific project, hire a freelancer on a contract basis. If the fit is a complementary one, the opportunity generally exists to make it permanent.

And don’t forget your local community – if you need help in a retail space or café on weekends or evenings, look for uni or high school students who live locally.

Be prepared

Before you put up the “we’re hiring” sign, make sure you have everything ready. It’s important to be able to describe the job clearly, define how much money you are willing to pay, and whether the role is full or part time, casual or permanent.

If you’re hiring on a part time or contract basis, communicate this during the recruitment process – let people know you will review their performance at a set date and may be able to make them an offer to go full-time.

Making it work

The addition of a new staff member to a small team can have a big impact – so it’s important to plan for their arrival. Talk to your existing team about the new starter. Tell them about the new person’s role, what their tasks and responsibilities are, who their manager is and how they can help them fell comfortable and learn the ropes.

Offer your new employee lots of training and all the information they need to do their job well. Make feedback an ongoing thing – consider performance reviews and a trial period – typically three months. Introduce them to a workplace ‘buddy’ or mentor (not their direct boss) they can go to for advice, help or to ask any questions.

Encourage an open-door policy with your new staff and your team. Communication is key to a new staff member settling into their roles and your team embracing them.

A helping hand

The Government’s Fairwork Ombudsman site has a guide for hiring new staff.