Fully staffing your business and being ready when the slow season transitions to the busy season is a tricky proposition. There is a delicate balancing act between hiring too early and needing to float a few workers on your payroll until jobs start picking up and hiring too late and scrambling to train all the new employees even as more jobs come pouring in.
So, how do you make the decision of when to hire and how much time you need to train? While it's not an exact science, there are steps you can take and knowing the process beforehand might better help you plan. Let's examine the different variables below.
The most consequential decision you'll make relates to timing. There are two key issues that relate to timing: when you expect your business to pick up, and how long it takes to get new employees up to speed.
If you don't have a formal training program, it's difficult to compute the latter. However, there are other ways to determine it.
- Ask current employees how much time they would have liked to train before going on their first job with your firm. This information is probably top of mind for some of your newer employees especially, when the frustration of being new and not having a solid grasp on what is expected of you is fresher.
- Don’t underestimate the amount of time new employees will need to feel comfortable. While you will ideally be hiring employees who have practical experience in your industry, there are always the little details on specific employers that everyone needs to learn. Just don't assume they'll be able to learn on the job.
Now, on to the other timing decision - when to hire new employees. Ideally, you'll hire a new employee, train them and have them out in the field with as little down time as possible. However, that timing can be a moving target.
Here are a few things that might help you determine it:
- You already have a significant number of jobs booked for upcoming months. This is an especially important detail if you're seeing more jobs as opposed to this same time in years past.
- Your bandwidth or your trainer's bandwidth might be limited. You know that hiring employees will take an inordinate amount of your time and attention. If there are upcoming commitments on your time, considering hiring around these blocks.
- You have an average time of how long it takes to train a new employee. By having this timing figured out, you can backtrack from a job start date to consider when the best time would be to onboard a new employee.
While the slow season is a time to catch up on paperwork and sleep, it’s also the best time to hire. Your candidate pool will be larger because more people will be out work at that time. And you’ll have the time and luxury to make an educated hiring decision. By hiring during the slow season you are allowing yourself the time you need to truly evaluate candidates.
Modify your hiring process
You might also take a hard look at your past hires to see if there might be a blindspot in your interviewing and hiring process. Look at things like employee productivity and turnover. If you lost half of your hires last year in the middle of your busiest season, look a bit closer at their qualifications and the reasons you hired them. The latter may not be properly calibrated for your job.
Additionally, consider implementing or reinforcing an existing employee referral program. Even just asking some of your best employees if they know someone who may be interested can go a long way toward building a staff of like-minded and exceptional individuals. And by asking for their input, your employees will be more invested in the outcome.
Hiring is easily one of the most important, and one of the most complicated tasks you perform as a business owner or leader. Building the right team with strong talent and a commitment to customer service can seem daunting, but by breaking the process down into relatable chunks, you may find it’s not as overwhelming as you assumed.