How to stop hiring mediocre people and start hiring the best

As Yorkshire’s economic recovery continues and the region’s SMEs experience more momentum overall, it is vital that companies recruit, retain and develop high performing teams.

Few businesses can afford to carry passengers who drain money time and resources – as well as putting additional pressure on fellow employees.

As an ambitious SME, we have experienced at first-hand how, if left unchecked, consistent underperformers will hold a business back.

In some cases it could be these ‘passengers’ are in the wrong role, have been badly managed or haven’t been given the training and development opportunities that would allow them to shine. However in my experience, this is the exception as opposed to the rule.

One of the first and most important decisions I made when joining ADD in 2006 was to release two employees in our very small team – because they were not adding value and did not share the company’s vision for growth.

Fast forward nine years and we are a 20-strong team marking consistent growth since 2009 – thanks to the strength and calibre of the people we’ve recruited.

Once businesses find great staff, it is critical that they equip them with the tools to operate effectively. ADD is wholly committed to training and developing our people as well as recognising and rewarding their achievements. One third of our team have achieved NVQ qualifications and, in the ethos of practising what I preach, I am undertaking an NVQ Level 5 in Business Administration.

So what should SMEs be looking for when they invite an applicant for interview?

Focus on achievements
In my experience it is valuable to focus on the successful track record of an applicant, because this will tell you, the employer, what makes them tick and gets them out of bed in the morning – and where their talents lie.

Hire on skills and attitude
Don’t expect applicants to be the full and finished package. A ‘can do’ attitude coupled with a desire to be a team player and take ownership for their actions are great indicators of commitment from potential employees.

Appoint mentors
Be prepared to be a mentor or appoint someone senior in your company to take on that supportive responsibility. An employer who is firm, fair but, most of all, approachable, is invariably appreciated and respected.

Always be on the lookout for good people
Being able to recruit the right people offers a continuous opportunity for talent spotting. At ADD we are always seeking out positive employees with career potential and fresh ideas to keep the business one step ahead in 2015 in line with our next dynamic phase of growth.

Inject some fun into the business
Finally it’s also important to stop for breath and have some fun along the way – happy employees are those who are most productive and will act as magnets to attract top talent to keep the business forging ahead.

Julie Pickersgill is operations director of Advanced Digital Dynamics (ADD) – a global IT distributor specialising in computer hardware and data destruction.

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