We are all aware that the pandemic has impacted small businesses. Among the factors impacting most businesses are decreased demand, quarantine restrictions, and supply chain issues. These are serious challenges to any size businesses, but the challenges are especially critical for the smaller business. When I use the term small business, I am referring to businesses employing less than 100 people. One thing that has been particularly challenging is the impact on the workforce. Lots of small businesses were able to get PPP loans which made it possible to keep staff on board even when the doors were closed. Many have had to hire new employees to replace those that have taken jobs elsewhere.

The Human Resources (HR) function is a challenge for a small business that doesn’t have the money, or normally the need for an HR professional. Unfortunately, in times of high turnover, business owners and managers also don’t have the time to perform these functions. Recruiting, selecting, and training new employees can be a challenge when a structure is in place to manage these tasks. For the small business owner, the task can be overwhelming. I have even seen larger companies whose orientation programs have broken down and new employees are often on their own to figure out how to be successful in their new roles.

I hope the following tips on hiring will help you to pandemic proof your business.

Hiring: If you felt the need to hire good people before the pandemic, you probably feel it even stronger now. Employee selection is one of the most important decisions a business owner can make. This is not the time to rush into hiring someone even if you desperately need help. Structured interviews, review of qualifications and reference checks should not be deferred no matter how desperate you are for help. Remember there are lots of people looking for work. I was recently helping a client hire for a position that he had been trying to fill for a couple for months. He posted a Facebook ad and had 38 applicants of which 14 were qualified. We interviewed 3 people, hired 2 and are continuing to interview to create a stable of qualified candidates. As in normal times, be sure to complete the legal forms required of a hire.

Orientation and Training: Don’t assume that even the smartest employee can “figure things out.” This is the time to over communicate. Take the time to review key information about the job and employment with new employees. What you take for granted, like benefits, procedures, and policies will be unknown to the new employee. Avoid putting them in a position of “figuring things out”.

Create a Cohort: Even if you have a user-friendly website for information about job duties or benefits, employees can be overwhelmed trying to answer questions. Have someone give the new employees a tour so that they can do their jobs effectively. If you’re one of those people who isn’t good at defining job duties and responsibilities, be sure someone knowledgeable is ready, willing, and able to support new employees as they begin employment. It is important that new employees understand the company’s mission and culture. Make sure new employees learn their jobs and the ways of your company. In addition to assigning someone to mentor new employees, be sure everyone knows the importance of helping the newbies understand their jobs and the company. It will help them come up to speed faster.

Make communication a priority: Today’s way of working means for many companies that the old ways of communicating aren’t an option. Water cooler talk, hallway conversations, and afterwork gatherings are not as easy or as common as before COVID was an issue, making it harder to share information. Smart utilization of Zoom, Facetime, Skype, WebEx, and outdoor gatherings can create the opportunity for fostering collaborative relationships. Studies show that one of the greatest satisfiers at work are good relationships with coworkers and bosses. John Donne’s words, “No man is an Island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of the Continent, part of the main” are still true. Because we are more isolated than ever before, it is important to look for ways to connect with others even if virtually.

Check on your people: Even those who are not suffering from deep feelings of isolation may still be missing human contact. Find ways to reach out to your employees. It doesn’t have to be anything big, a note, a phone call even a virtual celebration of achievement can create connections that will be helpful to your business and your employees.

Help your employees stay safe: Whatever your company’s protocol for COVID safety, provide your employees with what they need to stay safe. Take initiative to safeguard your workplace for your employees. This can be as simple as ensuring careful cleaning of the office, positioning office furniture for social distancing, and following a clearly defining safety protocol, making sure your employees are considerate of one another’s health by good handwashing, masking, coughing and sneezing etiquette, and availability and use of hand sanitizer.

Contingency Plan: Consider implementing flexible business hours, work from home arrangements, alternating days working in office to increase the ability to socially distance. Make a plan of action in the event that someone in your workplace is diagnosed positive for COVID so that employees know the procedures for testing and quarantining.

People are your greatest resource, but it is important to remember that they are people and not a commodity. Take the time to find the absolute best people you can, help them become great employees, and always let them know they are appreciated.

If you would like a copy of 10 questions to ask in an interview, email me with INTERVIEW QUESTIONS in the subject line and I will send it to you.

Cami Miller is a business coach and works with executives, entrepreneurs, and family businesses developing strategies for success. She can be reached at [email protected]

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