Ahead of Small Business Week in May, FOXBusiness.com is running a special Growing Your Business series. Here is expert advice and insight for entrepreneurs from Tara Wolckenhauer, division vice president, human resources, ADP Small Business Services.
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“Your employees are the face of your company,” said Tara Wolckenhauer, division vice president, human resources, ADP Small Business Services. “Whether you are hiring your first or your 10th, they are all important.”
Wolckenhauer is an expert in human resources and workforce management. She oversees a team at ADP that advises hundreds of thousands of small and midsize business owners on their “human capital” – including hiring, talent management and benefits administration. In fact, she says, obtaining and retaining talent – and remaining legally compliant in the process -- can be one of the greatest challenges small businesses face.
FOXBUSINESS.COM: What are your top tips for small business owners and entrepreneurs?
Wolckenhauer: Take hiring seriously. Employee engagement and retention is as important as customer acquisition. And know your compliance obligations, or work with someone who does.
FOXBUSINESS.COM: What do you mean by “strong hiring practices,” and how can small-business owners best engage and retain employees?
Wolckenhauer: A recent ADP study found that seven of 10 small businesses experience problems during the hiring process, and one of the most prevalent issues was new employees not meeting expectations for the position. When establishing and evaluating your hiring process, consider these questions: Does your company use multiple recruiting sources to reach a diverse pool of applicants? Do you have an effective candidate screening process? Do you have job descriptions for each position? Do your job descriptions accurately reflect the essential functions of the job? On average, how long does a new hire stay with your company? Do you conduct exit interviews to find out why employees leave?
Replacing an employee can be costly, time consuming and in many cases more difficult than acquiring a new customer. But there are many cost-effective actions employers can take to help retain their top talent. This includes creating a strong, positive company culture, recognizing top performers and offering a flexible work environment. Employees who feel a strong attachment to their company's culture tend to be more loyal and engaged. To develop a strong work culture, make sure your company’s values are clearly communicated at the time of hire, and that your policies and practices reflect those values.
Another strategy that doesn’t cost a lot, but can go far in keeping employees is recognizing their accomplishments to show their work is appreciated. Recognition doesn’t have to be monetary in nature either; for example, an employee of the month could get special privileges, like parking in the CEO's spot or an extra day off.
FOXBUSINESS.COM: What is one piece of advice entrepreneurs and small business owners should keep in mind every day?
Wolckenhauer: Do not lose sight of why you started your business. Leadership and culture will ultimately define whether or not an organization will be successful. It is critical to pay close attention to your company’s culture and treat it with the same level of importance as your bottom line. Foster collaborative thinking, encourage employees to take chances, and immediately address any bad apples.
FOXBUSINESS.COM: What is one of the biggest mistakes you see small business owners making, and how could they address this error?
Wolckenhauer: Small business owners are especially busy and pulled in what feels like a million directions every day. I think the biggest mistake they can often make is putting employee engagement on the back burner while they focus on more urgent “crises.” This can be a major oversight, especially at a time when it has become clear that employee engagement is closely correlated with business conditions essential to an organization's financial success, such as productivity, profitability and customer engagement. How can small business owners win at employee engagement? In some cases it’s as simple as connecting with your employees and listening to their needs. Making efforts to provide work/life balance or more robust benefits can also help employees feel like they are an important part of the business, which they are.
FOXBUSINESS.COM: Which book would you recommend to small business owners and entrepreneurs, and why?
Wolckenhauer: “Oh the Places You’ll Go,” by Dr. Seuss. Although a children’s book, there are many short lessons that apply to both life and business. The simplicity of concepts that are complex is masterful. And it doesn’t hurt that its lessons are brief. My favorite? “So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life's A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you'll move mountains.”