I was pleased to be invited to join a panel of local business specialists at a recent Back to Business event which also featured the Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
I was asked to address the issue of recruiting and retaining good employees as a means to supporting business success. Fortunately, I'd had some prior warning of the questions (hey, who are we kidding, I had given the questions to the panel facilitator prior to the session), so had a little time to consider a response that I hoped would be useful to those attending.
The fact that I only had a few minutes to respond of course meant that I needed to be succinct (not my strong point) and distil my learnings and experiences over 25+ years into a few clear points.
After giving it some thought, I landed upon the concept of considering potential employees as prospective customers (and, by extension, current employees as current customers).
As business owners and managers, most of us spend a lot of time contemplating our ideal potential customer and how to bring them aboard as actual customers who will draw upon the goods and services our business offers. And those of us who have been around a while and survived the rigours of a life in small business have proven that we're able to do it successfully.
We regularly ask ourselves questions such as:
- Just who are our ideal customers?
- What are their interests, their experiences? What do they want/need/expect, and how can they benefit by engaging with our business?
- Where are our ideal customers and what can we do to connect and engage with them?
- How do we "qualify" our customers, to ensure that they are the right fit for our business?
- And what do we have to offer that will attract them to our business rather than that of our competitors?
And once we have them on board as customers, the questions continue:
- How can we ensure their early interactions/experiences with us are positive?
- How do we continue to communicate with and engage with them?
- What can we do to better understand and deliver on their emerging wants, needs and expectations?
- What do we need to do to ensure that they know we understand them and are keen to continue to support them?
- What can we do to keep them feeling positive, keep them coming back, and perhaps even turn them into "raving fans" who tell others about their positive experiences?
If you're a business owner or manager keen to recruit and retain staff who make a genuine contribution to the success of your business, perhaps consider asking yourself similar questions in respect of your prospective and current employees:
- Just who is/are our ideal employees? What skills/experiences do they have, and what personal attributes/attitudes/values do they have that will enable them to make a great contribution?
- Just where are our ideal employees, and how can we connect/engage with them?
- What are their wants/needs/expectations, what do we have to offer that's different to our competitor employers, and how can we highlight these benefits in our communications with them?
- How do we assess our candidates to ensure they are indeed the right fit for our business?
And once we've found our ideal employees and managed to bring them aboard:
- How can we make it a positive experience – first impressions and beyond?
- How do we effectively communicate with them, keep them engaged, better understand and meet their needs/wants/expectations, and let them know and feel that we are there to support them?
- What do we need to do to give them a sense of belonging, build loyalty and optimise their contribution to the business? (hey, who doesn't want a few "raving fans" as employees?)
So how to recruit and retain great employees? Perhaps a useful starting point is to consider how we engage with them using a similar "lens" through that which we view and contemplate our ideal customers.
Food for thought…