How to attract and retain quality staff for your startup

By Tom Jackson

Attracting and retaining quality employees are vital to startups, with human resources (HR) a key business function that must be given adequate attention should a business want to grow and attract the best employees.

This is according to Kgomotso Ramoenyane, executive general manager of human resources at South African risk finance firm Business Partners, who says all entrepreneurs will have to increase their staff complement should they wish to grow their startup to the next level.

“If this process isn’t managed properly, it can become a serious burden to the business owner. Many SME owners also underestimate the value that good HR management system can contribute towards the future growth of their business,” she said.

The key to effective HR and talent management, according to Ramoenyane, is for business owners is to familiarise themselves with local labour laws, which stipulate the dos and don’ts for employees and employers.

“Many entrepreneurs, especially those who run small businesses, often believe that they don’t have the time or resources available to manage the business’ HR needs, and as a result, find themselves clueless when the need arises to hire new staff or manage employees’ needs,” she explains.

First and foremost, business owners need to find the right talent. While it is easier said than done, Ramoenyane says there are various measures that business owners can put in place to assist with the recruitment process.

“Start with a clear job description and advertise this brief on all relevant platforms that are available to the business. When interviewing potential candidates, it is important to pose the same questions to all interviewees so that an accurate comparison can be made,” she said.

The HR process does not end once a staff member is appointed to a particular position.

“Business owners need to pay attention to employees’ needs on an ongoing basis. At least two formal performance reviews should take place annually – both to ascertain if the employer is happy with the level and quality of work being performed, and if the employee is satisfied with his or her working conditions, job description and role, as well as training and development opportunities,” Ramoenyane said.

For many employees, the reasons for staying in a particular job are not only limited to the salary they earn.

“Staff need more than a monthly pay check – they need to feel valued for their contribution to their company and its bottom line,” she said, adding this is an area where startups have the upper hand on larger organisations.

“While such organisations can perhaps offer larger salary packages, which appear more attractive, a small business can craft and implement their own unique employee value proposition, both with tangible and non-tangible aspects,” Ramoenyane said.

While the tangible aspects entail monthly remuneration and bonuses, considerations when formulating the non-tangible aspects include so-called “fringe benefits” such as free parking, flexi-hours, training opportunities or the occasional lunch from the business.

The biggest advantage small businesses have is their ability to involve staff in a wider range of responsibilities, which is necessitated by the size of the business.

“In larger organisations, one finds that the ability to be exposed to a wider range of duties is limited, as work is compartmentalised. Another big selling point for small businesses is their smaller size team, which can create a welcoming environment and close knit culture,” said Ramoenyane.

Ultimately, if small businesses want to attract and retain good staff, they need to fully understand what is important to their employees.

“Methods of retention can come in many forms, from professional and personal development, time off, reward and recognition, to pay and working hours,” Ramoenyane said.

“Ultimately, retaining quality employees requires that periodical discussions are held, whereby the focus is on the employee’s engagement levels and what is important to them.”

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