Investing in the right skills is crucial for growing small businesses

sbEntrepreneurs in South Africa are constantly faced with the challenge of attracting and retaining people with the vital skills and experience required to grow a business.

“When a business grows and starts facing a range of challenges, the entrepreneur relies more on staff for the support, expertise and dedication needed to keep the business on track,” says Ravi Govender, Head of Small Enterprises at Standard Bank, when discussing this subject as part of a recent episode of Standard Bank’s ‘Think Big – Building Business Champions’ series.

Mr. Govender says there are a number of ways to attract and keep essential skills within a company, despite numerous offers that your staff may be getting from bigger businesses.

He says the advantages that smaller companies can offer potential employees include:

  • Less red tape and bureaucracy.
  • Closer relationships between leaders and employees.
  • Greater depth and exposure to other parts of the business.
  • More flexibility, diversity, personal growth and development.

Business owners that are not confident about their interviewing or assessment skills should consider hiring a specialist recruitment company to do the initial screening. “Well established businesses could use their network of contacts for referrals. Candidates who come in through referrals usually understand the advantages of working in a smaller environment, so recruitment becomes easier,” says Mr Govender.

If you prefer to do the entire process yourself, you should take these factors into consideration:

  • Does the candidate have traceable references?
  • How do previous employers regard the candidate? Speaking to each employer personally is essential.
  • Is the person a job-hopper? If a candidate has had three jobs in three years, they could be unreliable.
  • Does the prospective employee have a sound credit rating?
  • Does he or she have any criminal convictions?
  • Does the candidate have the temperament to work in an environment where teamwork is essential?

“Attracting the right skills is one thing, but keeping them in the business requires equal attention. Happy employees help to enhance the success of a business,” says Mr Govender.

The following factors can increase job satisfaction:

  • Providing an environment conducive to learning and development.
  • Allowing employees to personalise their workspace.
  • Introducing flexi-time for employees if applicable.
  • Encouraging those with computer-based jobs to work from home if applicable.
  • Conducting regular performance reviews.
  • Encouraging employees to become multi-skilled by learning from others.
  • Encouraging growth, development and efficiency within the business.
  • Encouraging employees to make work-related suggestions and operational recommendations.
  • Providing small job perks.

“In a smaller business, it is possible for employees to feel stagnant. By constantly encouraging them and providing feedback on their performance you can enhance personal wellbeing and protect your business from being disrupted if a key employee leaves.”

Communication is the most important skill for any entrepreneur to master.

“If employees know what is expected of them, and know that they can approach you to make suggestions, raise issues or questions, you are more likely to keep them,” says Mr. Govender.

Press release by Magna-Carta.

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