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 How to attract and retain quality staff

 

 Attracting and retaining quality employees are two of the biggest stresses for many small and medium enterprises (SMEs). According to the Business Partners Limited SME Index (BPLSI), during the fourth quarter of 2015 SME owners expressed average confidence levels of only 55% that they will be able to find and retain staff with the right skillset and expertise. Human resources (HR) is a key business function that must be given adequate attention should a business want to grow and attract the best employees, says Kgomotso Ramoenyane, Executive General Manager of Human Resources at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS).

“Eventually a small business owner will have to increase their staff complement should they wish to grow their business to the next level, and 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,” says Ramoenyane.

Ramoenyane says that the key to effective HR and talent management for SME owners is to familiarise themselves with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) and Labour Relations Act, as both of these Acts clearly 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’s 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. Ramoenyane says that while it is easier said than done, 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 adds that 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.”

In terms of retaining good staff, Ramoenyane says that for many employees, reasons to stay in one particular job are not only limited to the amount of Rands deposited into their bank accounts at the end of each month. “Staff need more than a monthly pay check – they need to feel valued for their contribution to their company and its bottom line.” She adds that this is where small businesses 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 further explains that typically, the tangible aspects entail monthly remuneration and bonuses. Considerations when formulating the non-tangible aspects include the so-called ‘fringe benefits’ such as free parking, flexi-hours, training opportunities or the occasional lunch from the business.

However, she says that the biggest advantage that 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.”

Ramoenyane concludes that ultimately, if SMEs want to attract and retain good staff they need to fully understand what is important to the business’s employees. “Methods of retention can come in many forms, from professional and personal development, time off, reward and recognition, to pay and working hours.

“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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