3 Questions To Help You Hire and Retain Great Talent

by | Aug 2, 2019

Ask any business owner about their biggest challenges and ‘finding the right people’ is almost a unanimous response.

You’re constrained in how much you can pay. You’re competing against bigger brands. And too often, the people you’ve put all that effort into hiring and training just don’t fit the role.

But if you take a moment to think more strategically about hiring and retention, you’ll find there are plenty of ways to improve your results. Give some thought to these critical questions…


1.      Who are you really trying to hire?


People often take an incomplete view of what a ‘good hire’ looks like: They focus too much on skills and experience. Yes, you heard it right: Too much!

Skills can be learned very quickly, particularly if someone’s focused on learning one key skill before you give them a million other things to learn.

And experience… well, as the saying goes: ten years’ experience may actually be one year experience repeated ten times over.

Take the time to think about the qualities that are absolutely non-negotiable versus those that you can compromise on. And for those that are non-negotiable, make sure to have a solid reason why.

Imagine you were hiring someone to assemble flat pack furniture. Do you need someone with loads of experience doing that? Or simply someone that’s a keen learner, good at following instructions and very happy to do physical work.

And don’t expect people to be operating at their full potential after a couple of weeks.

Someone with the ability and desire to learn quickly can be far better than someone with loads of experience. Small businesses often think they need to hire in big business experience. But these hires often don’t work out.

In a smaller organisation, people need to be more flexible and creative at coming up with the answers themselves. In a large organisation, there are more layers. The people tend to be more specialised, process-focused and less ‘hands on’ as they move up the ladder.

Expectations need to be really clear if you expect your employee to roll up their sleeves and pick up a wide variety of tasks. Remember, a person might be very capable but if they’re not motivated, or would prefer to act in a different role, you’ll have problems piling up pretty quickly.


2.      Are you investing – the right way – in their development?


‘They just aren’t up to the job’. It’s the slogan of a hiring decision gone wrong.

But business owners often don’t put in enough time to train and mentor the people they’ve hired, or they do it ineffectively.

It’s a chicken-and-egg problem: If you don’t delegate to other people you’ll never be able to free yourself up, but if you don’t get people operating effectively, you’ll never be able to delegate.

Some approaches to tackle this include:

  • Designing the work based on the area of need. Take the example of hiring a cook: Do they really need to be able to cook everything on your menu, or could they start off by mastering the restaurant’s most popular dish?
  • Giving staff permission to ask why. Would you rather staff simply follow a process, or actively try to find faster, cheaper and better ways to achieve the same outcome?
  • Set the right measures for success. If you measure staff on how fast they take to get something done, then be prepared that: (a) they won’t get it right a pretty high percentage of the time; and (b) they’ll never do it quicker than the benchmark you set. Poorly chosen metrics lead to poor outcomes.
  • Take the time to re-educate. If you hire an experienced salesperson from a big firm, you may find they excel in closing inbound leads, but don’t do enough work to create new leads. Rather than consider them a failure, recognise they might just require help to adjust their style to suit the needs of your organisation.


3.      Are you setting your people up for success?


Even worse than hiring the wrong person is hiring a great one, investing plenty of time and money in their development, only for them to leave after a short time.

You can’t control the other opportunities in the market, such as how much competing businesses are paying, but you can tailor the role to the individual.

You should understand what motivates them. What experiences they seek. And what they really value in the organisation they work for.

You want to create the conditions for your employees to thrive. Constant learning. New challenges. Colleagues they can learn from. Leaders they want to follow.

Think of the best people you’ve hired. What set them apart from the rest? And what made them successful in the role?

Photo by Melanie Pongratz on Unsplash



Starteer is an Australian business advisory practice that that helps emerging and mid-market companies accelerate and sustain growth. We support leadership teams to make the right People, Strategy, Execution and Cash decisions on the way to building valuable companies.

Our services span growth advisory, fractional growth roles and strategic coaching using the globally renowned Scaling Up methodology as a certified practice.

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